Businesses must use more efficient technologies to cut energy and water consumption for the UAE to meet its goals for a low-carbon future, experts said.
The UAE has some of the highest electricity and water consumption rates in the world, according to a report released last Tuesday by the Emirates Wildlife Society and World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF), titled Harnessing the Invisible Fuel: How to unlock the energy and water efficiency potential of the UAE private sector.
The report covered the private sector’s role in achieving energy and water efficiency, and based its conclusions on 363 interviews with small, medium and large businesses in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
The commercial sector accounts for 38 per cent of the country’s electricity use and 19 per cent of its water consumption, according to the report.
“Some of this consumption is a function of the harsh environment and the need for cooling. But a significant share is due to inefficient equipment, buildings and consumer behaviour,” the report found.
Of the firms interviewed, only 5.8 per cent from Dubai, 3.7 per cent from Sharjah and 2.1 per cent from Abu Dhabi had implemented either energy or water conservation measures, according to the findings.
Among the companies that had adopted high-efficiency measures, 88 per cent had changed lighting systems and 75 per cent had implemented measures related to air conditioning. Seventy-five per cent had taken other steps to conserve electricity while 38 per cent had launched initiatives to reduce water consumption.
There is an overall lack of energy and water-efficient technologies in the UAE market, as well as a lack of information about products, said Tanzeed Alam, climate and energy director of EWS-WWF.
Businesses are reluctant to use these technologies, such as LED bulbs, because they think the costs are higher.
Developing financing schemes to provide discounts, rebates and grants for using those technologies could help to win over this reluctance, Mr Alam said.
“As electricity and water tariffs rise the investment in more efficient products will pay back more quickly, and make it more attractive for consumers to become more energy efficient.
“Businesses and residents would benefit if they were able to buy the most energy and water-efficient devices at a lower cost than inefficient devices.”
Ahmed Al Astad, director general of Al Istishari Al Strategy Centre for Economic and Future Studies, agreed with supporting businesses to save energy consumption, as well as the importance of shifting to the use of clean energy, which he said was the UAE’s main challenge regarding efficiency.
With the huge developments in the country’s energy sector, especially in green energy, there were many opportunities for businesses to play an additional role, Mr Al Astad said.
“There are a lot of opportunities available to the private sector to play a key role in the light of the broad growth of the national economy and the expansion of major projects that require further cooperation between the two sides in energy management and efficiency of use and to achieve development,” he said.
The report said that the Government had started to show progressive leadership by taking steps to address the challenges – such as the decision to develop a post-oil strategy and the creation of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and the Dubai Clean Energy Fund.
“The next five years will be crucial in determining whether we can keep climate change in check,” the report found.