GCC ‘must set energy targets to cut waste’

Setting up a clearly defined national energy efficiency strategy is key to reducing energy wastage in the UAE, an expert has said.

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GCC governments need to set public targets for energy efficiency to reduce waste, an expert says.

Clearly defined national strategies and GCC-wide standards are also important in tackling the high amounts of energy wasted, said Glada Lahn, a research fellow at Chatham House in the UK.

Ms Lahn said announcing public targets gave governments a greater impetus for action.

The UAE and other Arabian Gulf nations have some of the highest rates of energy waste in the world, but progress is being made as new, independent energy regulators make regional governments more aware of the economic benefits of efficiency.

Independent regulators are coming up with “very powerful figures that show how much is being wasted”, Ms Lahn said.

“In some cases the authority has been given for the technical people to do the maths, to do the statistics and work out the cost-benefit analysis and these are coming back with some powerful cases for energy efficiency in terms of pure economic benefit, which is having an influence,” she said.

Ms Lahn is one of three authors of Saving Oil and Gas in the Gulf, a two-year study of energy efficiency in the region, completed in August this year.

She was one of many experts at a two-day conference organised by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development at the American University of Sharjah this week.

While energy efficiency is receiving more attention, more needs to be done, Ms Lahn said.

The issue, she said, “needs to stay on the agenda” with governments aiming for public efficiency targets.

“No state government in the region has a sustainable energy strategy,” Ms Lahn said.

“Once countries publish an energy strategy with careful planning as to roles and responsibilities and coordinating agencies, things will be able to move forward, particularly if they make some targets.”

While efficiency schemes require the cooperation of many public bodies, “the governance structures in these countries are particularly uncoordinated in that way”, said Ms Lahn. “Ministries often do not talk to each other.”

She said regional cooperation was also needed. The report recommends that Gulf countries set up common appliance efficiency standards, particularly for air-conditioners.

A common fuel efficiency standard for vehicles and “evaluating the potential to work towards common fuel prices” have also been recommended.

“Such measures could prevent cross-border trade undermining national efficiency regulations, and reduce the costs of materials and capacity-building by creating economies of scale,” said the report.

Ms Lahn also elaborated on the need to review energy prices, highlighted this week as a major reason behind low energy efficiency in the region.

“There has to be a vision towards raising prices to reflect costs not just across the costs of production, but the costs of use,” she said.