Energy-saving tips in order as summer heat sends Saudi electricity bills soaring

Villas in Dubai’s Sustainable City are fitted with solar panels and designed to shade each other during the day.
Updated 11 July 2018
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Energy-saving tips in order as summer heat sends Saudi electricity bills soaring

  • Summer heat has sent power bills soaring, but with a few simple energy-saving tips you can keep your cool, save money — and protect the planet, too

DUBAI: Consumers around Saudi Arabia got a shock last month when they saw their latest electricity bills. A double whammy of increased tariffs from the Saudi Electricity Company and the arrival of summer heat, with air-conditioning set to max, sent costs sky-high.

So is there anything householders can do to ease the pain? The answer from experts across the region is, yes — a lot. And utility companies have an important role to play with transparent billing, sustainability programs and energy-saving advice.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) introduced itemized billing a few years ago, allowing customers to view their exact consumption of water and electricity, including their carbon footprint. Using the company’s smart app, residents can analyze their bills, and view monthly and yearly energy use via graphs and charts.

Abu Dhabi’s Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) has also implemented new technologies and sustainability programs to help consumers. With UAE residents using an average of up to 20,000 kilowatt-hours annually and 550 liters of water per day, the changes are crucial.

“The UAE is working to create a more sustainable and energy-efficient country, but the success of these initiatives depends on household consumption,” said Fadi Nwilati, CEO of Kaizen Asset Management Services, which has worked with DEWA.

Both DEWA and ADWEA have adopted “excellence and creativity” to deliver smart services to customers, he said.

One of the key strategies is to create “consumption awareness.” After extensive research, both providers realized that many consumers read their utility bills but fail to understand what they were being charged for or were buying.

“DEWA’s green bill was launched in 2012 to protect the environment and promote sustainability. Consumers can access the bill from anywhere, analyze consumption and pay their bills online,” Nwilati said.

The bill provides a straightforward explanation on consumption, and offers energy-saving tips and advice on water conservation.

A tariff calculator also helps to explain utility use.

Nwilati said time-of-use rates were a key consideration for consumers. “Peak times are between noon and 5 p.m., so DEWA encourages the consumer to limit usage during this time. Dubai Municipality, meter service charges and VAT are fixed costs, so consumers need to look at the consumption cost, in particular, when analyzing their utility bill.” 

Consumers could compare their utility bill with neighborhood statistics, allowing them to set realistic energy-management goals.

“Seasonal strategies can be implemented in your household. A perfect example is limiting the use of aircon during summer. It’s essential the customer understand the make-up of their energy costs and possible energy wasters. This information is available on the DEWA app and the Internet. Consumers can start with simple energy-saving tactics which will help them fill their pockets and save the planet,” Nwilati said.

Tips include keeping the home thermostat set at 24 degrees Celsius or higher, and on “auto” instead of “on” since each degree can mean up to 5 percent savings on cooling costs.

Others mention LED bulbs, which are 85 percent more efficient than incandescent or halogen light bulbs. 

Sanju Kohli, executive director of Leme Lighting, said: “Two of the biggest household users of electricity are aircon, which is hard to reduce in terms of consumption, especially during summer, and the washing machine and drier. Many washing machines have a three- to six-star water-saving rating, which tells you it uses less water. Only certain brands are allowed to sell with a minimum star rating.”

Governments across the region are encouraging the use of LED lighting, both indoors and outdoors. “A lot of households like to light up their houses, so the issue has always been the cost of lighting up a villa,” he said. “With LED, you save 80 to 90 percent on your power consumption and it emits no heat, which reduces the time  you need to keep the AC on. When you’re saving on electricity, everything ties in together.”

In Dubai, the Sustainable City has taken energy saving a step further by offering residents live data access.

Karim Al-Jisr, executive director of the Social Economic Environmental Institute at the Sustainable City, said: “We’re still testing devices, but it is noninvasive monitoring, which has a much bigger effect on behavior. Itemized billing is important for consumers and for changing behavior, but when those bills appear only once a month, it’s not enough information to modify behavior.”

For Philip Sinclair, a British resident of Sustainable City, the savings are noticeable. “The different ways they are promoting sustainability is great. I enjoy the innovation and energy they bring in trying to do things a different way.”

After moving two years ago, Sinclair’s power bills are lower than anywhere else in Dubai, having paid 3,000 dirhams ($820) a month for a five-bedroom villa in Jumeirah in summer compared with 200 to 300 dirhams a
month today.

“Some months we even get money back from DEWA, so they’re producing electricity and putting it in the grid,” he said. “We noticed a massive difference, and there are also recycling and intelligent systems around water and waste management. The nice thing is it’s not a gimmick — it’s a realistic view to being sustainable, not just environmentally but also financially.”

Al-Jisr said reducing consumption at home was fundamental. “Unless we reduce consumption, we will continue to emit too much carbon, which goes against local and federal goals, and global targets,” he said.

Transparency in billing will help consumers manage their consumption and, consequently, their budgets.

“The price of water has increased recently, and water resources are vital for the country,” said Dr. Ahmed Murad, dean of the College of Science at the United Arab Emirates University. “All of us should work together to reduce consumption, especially during summer.” 

The Gulf’s dependence on desalination and non-conventional water resources is also costly in terms of production and treatment. The GCC aims to reduce water consumption by 22 percent by 2030. And while water in nature is endlessly available, only 2.5 percent is fresh water, of which 70 percent is in polar and glacier ice. The energy sector alone is responsible for 10 percent of global water withdrawal.

 “Energy efficiency is a growing challenge in the Gulf, and population growth is adding to high consumption rates that will (become) unsustainable,” Nwilati said.

“Policies need to steer consumers in the right direction, and governments will also have to educate them on the financial benefits they can gain from energy-saving technologies and behavior.” 

Dubai’s Sustainable City


MiSK, Qiddiya team up for internship program 

Updated 25 March 2019
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MiSK, Qiddiya team up for internship program 

  • Interns will work on entertainment mega-project
  • Program open to university seniors and new graduates

RIYADH: A new internship program for young Saudis has been launched in the Kingdom, following a partnership between Misk Foundation and the Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC).

The program runs from June 16 to Aug. 31, 2019, and provides an opportunity for university seniors and recent graduates to be part of Qiddiya, an entertainment mega-project located 40 minutes from Riyadh.

Interns will have the chance to work at Qiddiya’s corporate offices alongside professionals from around the world and will be placed across 12 departments.

They will learn and develop skills that are required to succeed in their professional lives.

They will also gain exposure to QIC’s culture and learn from executives with over 20 years of experience across several sectors. 

QIC CEO Mike Reininger said: “We are contributing directly to the Saudi Vision (2030 reform plan) by creating a richer lifestyle for Saudi citizens while spurring innovation in the creative, hospitality and entertainment sectors. This unique opportunity allows students and fresh graduates to experience what it takes to be part of the change in Saudi by giving them the chance to work alongside a group of both local and international seasoned professionals. Thanks to this partnership with MiSK, we will be training the next generation of industry leaders.” 

Application to the program is open for those with fewer than two years of professional experience. Candidates must show strong academic credentials and submit a short video as part of their application.

King Salman led the Qiddiya ground-breaking ceremony in front of a global audience last April.

The project is aimed at helping to stem the $30 billion a year which Saudis currently spend abroad on tourism, and has the backing of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.

It targets local, regional and international tourists and will be Saudi Arabia’s preeminent entertainment, sports and cultural destination.

It is expected to be the world’s largest entertainment city by 2030, with a total area of 334 square kilometers, surpassing Walt Disney World in Florida, which is only 110 sq. km.