Jeremy Crane and Rory McCarthy of Yellow Door Energy discussed the history of sustainability in the UAE, the importance of DEWA’s Shams Dubai, and the benefits of solar for businesses.
Sustainability: Central to the UAE’s Founding
Sustainability is integral to the UAE’s core values, as the country’s founding father the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan once said, “Our forefathers and our ancestors lived in this land and coexisted with its environment, on land and at sea, and instinctively realised the need to preserve it.” 1
Preserving the founder’s legacy, in 2017 the UAE launched an ambitious energy strategy that aimed for 50% of clean energy in its energy mix by 2050 2. This strategy is rapidly becoming a reality thanks to the tireless efforts of policymakers, engineers, construction workers and many others in both the public and private sectors.
Shams Dubai and the Birth of a UAE Solar Company
In 2015, DEWA launched its Shams Dubai net metering scheme to increase the adoption of solar in the emirate. Within 5 short years, DEWA has successfully connected almost 2,000 buildings to solar, with a total capacity of 171.7 megawatts 3.
The launch of Shams Dubai was a catalyst for the founding of our UAE-headquartered company Yellow Door Energy. The net metering scheme enabled Yellow Door Energy to offer solar to businesses and help them reduce electricity costs by up to 50%, eliminate carbon emissions and become sustainability champions. Today, Yellow Door Energy has over 110 megawatts of solar projects in the UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and it aspires to be the sustainable energy partner for businesses as solar is one of its solutions.
Solar for Your Building: Capex or Opex?
As a business, you can switch to solar in two ways: invest your own money and incur a capital expense (capex), or entrust a third party through a solar lease and incur an operational expense (opex).
Given the complexity of developing and maintaining a solar plant, many businesses choose opex so that they can focus on their core business, while entrusting the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the solar plant to a solar developer. Through opex, businesses pay a monthly solar price less than the utility tariff and start saving money, between 10-50%, from the day the solar plant is operational.
Combining Solar, Energy Efficiency, and Storage
Currently, the UAE has one of the highest rates of electricity consumption in the world at 13.1 megawatt-hours per capita 4. For comparison, other highly developed economies such as Singapore has a rate of 9.2 megawatt-hours per capita and the United Kingdom has a rate of 5 megawatt-hours per capita 5. There are many opportunities for improvement and technological advancements in artificial intelligence, smart analytics and energy storage can contribute to making your building more energy efficient.
Installing solar panels is not the end of your building’s sustainability journey; it is the first step forward. In conjunction with solar, you can also assess ways to make your building as energy efficient as possible and further reduce energy consumption and costs. You can even strive towards a net-zero energy building, which produces as much energy as it consumes. A combination of solar, energy conservation measures (mostly with cooling and lighting systems) and energy storage can help you get closer to this ambitious objective.
However, before you buy the latest technology as part of your retrofit, Yellow Door Energy recommends that you conduct an energy audit. You can do a high-level audit with the support of your internal engineering team, or entrust an experienced energy company to conduct an ASHRAE Level 1, 2 or 3 type of audit. The audit will indicate how efficient your building is compared to similar buildings in your industry and offer recommendations to improve your energy efficiency.
Additionally, there are many resources to help you embark on your sustainable building journey. For instance, you can explore the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certifications 6, read DEWA’s extensive Green Building Regulations & Specifications Guide 7, or attend technical workshops hosted by the Emirates Green Building Council 8. The abundance of resources can seem overwhelming, so below are some reassuring final words.
Final Words: Sustainability is a Journey
Wherever you are on your sustainability journey, be proud that you have taken the first of many steps. There will be setbacks along the way, and it takes patience, perseverance, and a positive attitude to make your building more sustainable.
With the authors’ combined 50 years of experience in solar, wind, and water solutions, it is understood that the journey never ends. There will be new technologies, new applications, new colleagues who develop new concepts. This is what makes the whole process so exciting and it is hoped that you will enjoy every step of the journey.