Dubai residents must change their "mindset" and invest in the future of the emirate if clean energy targets are to be met, says an expert.
The city aims for seven per cent of its energy output to be derived from clean energy - renewable, zero-emission sources such as solar, wind and hydropower - by 2020.
It is part of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy, which has set a goal for the emirate to produce 75 per cent of its energy through clean sources by 2050.
Dr Raed B'Kayrat, managing director of the Clean Energy Business Council, insists that many city residents must change short-termist attitudes towards life in the UAE if the lofty ambitions are to be reached.
Speaking at the annual congress of the Emirates Green Building Council, held at Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre hotel, Dr B'Kayrat called on the public to keep up with the progress being made in the commercial sector.
He said that many people are reluctant to invest in solar equipment, especially non-Emiratis living in the UAE, because it will take five to six years before they see a return on their investment.
“Many people have the mindset there is no point investing because they will only be here for two or three years, even though many expats end up staying a lot longer in the UAE than they had first planned,” he said.
The congress featured a host of environmental experts talking on the theme of how to help cities produce more net zero buildings, which means they do not use more renewable energy than is naturally created on site.
Dr B’Kayrat said that Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is on target to produce 1,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity by 2020, enough to power 300,000 homes annually.
He said that companies operating in Dubai are well-equipped to meet clean energy targets, but more work needs to be done to help residential homes follow suit.
The answer, Dr B’Kayart suggested, might be provided by the banks of the UAE.
“Anybody with a salary of Dh10,000 can go to a bank and buy a used car that is four-years-old and the bank has no issue,” said the 49-year-old Jordanian.
“Why can’t the same logic apply to me going to the bank and getting a smaller loan to get a 5kw solar power system on my roof?
“I know this is new to banks but if they provided these facilities there would definitely be a huge increase in the amount of solar powered purchases from the residential sector.”
He even suggested that the installation of solar-powered systems would make properties more attractive to tenants, allowing landlords to increase the level of rent.
Saeed Al Abbar, chairperson of Emirates Green Building Council, agreed that the general public need to be included in the project.
“We need to make net zero available to everyone and not just a select few,” he said.
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One of the biggest challenges the UAE faces is the retro-fitting of existing buildings, according to Ed Garrod from Elementa Consulting, who gave a presentation on the role of renewable energies in creating net zero buildings at the event.
“The issue with existing buildings is that a lot of the groundwork for energy efficiency has been done by others before you, but they may or not have got that right,’ he said.
“You find that a lot of existing buildings in this region are configured in ways that do not allow certain systems in the building. Some of the technologies we now use as standard when creating a net zero building can be harder to fit into those existing structures.”
The 40-year-old Englishman said that the UAE is widely regarded as one of the leading regions in the world when it comes to tackling climate change.
“I remember working on the creation of the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi, it is still talked about at conferences all over the globe as one of the first very first net zero carbon projects in the world,” he said.
“There is a much higher level of awareness that we need to tackle climate change in the UAE and it is becoming an international centre of excellence.”