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

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

Boxing legend Ali would have been ‘so proud’ to see heavyweight title fight in Saudi Arabia, says daughter

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Boxing legend Ali would have been ‘so proud’ to see heavyweight title fight in Saudi Arabia, says daughter

  • Rasheda Ali-Walsh: He would be so proud that his legacy of making the sport truly universal has taken this heavyweight championship of the world to Saudi Arabia
  • Rasheda Ali-Walsh: My father also took his fights to Zaire in Africa for the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and to Asia for the ‘Thrilla in Manilla’

RIYADH: Muhammad Ali, one of the most significant and celebrated sporting figures of all time, would have been “so proud” to see the world heavyweight boxing title fight “The Clash on the Dunes” taking place in Saudi Arabia.

That is the belief of Rasheda Ali-Walsh, daughter of the legendary three-time heavyweight world champion known as “The Greatest” who was a frequent visitor to the Kingdom, including his pilgrimage to Makkah in 1972 after embracing Islam and becoming Muslim.

In September last year Ali-Walsh herself traveled to Jeddah to present the Muhammad Ali Trophy to Callum Smith after he defeated George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final, the first major boxing match to be staged in the Kingdom by the General Sports Authority (GSA).

Ahead of Dec. 7’s showdown between World Champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua in the Diriyah Arena in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site, Ali-Walsh said: “Having the opportunity to present the winner of the World Boxing Super Series with my dad’s (Muhammad Ali Trophy), the greatest prize to earn, was not only an honor for the champion to achieve but also would have been a true honor and experience for my father as well.

“As an undisputed global icon and hero, my father has immensely contributed to the sport of boxing — changing the face of the sport, transforming it into a globally watched competition. Because of his worldwide significance, Saudi Arabia is a befitting location to host the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ this year.

“He would be so proud that his legacy of making the sport truly universal has taken this heavyweight championship of the world to Saudi Arabia. It could be called the Boxing Ultimatum in the Saudi Kingdom.

“When Dad visited Saudi Arabia 48 years ago, he was embraced with a spectacular welcome. He singlehandedly inspired the people there to spark an interest in boxing not only due to his ability in the ring but also his bringing values of Islam to the world.”

On Dec. 7, Anthony Joshua will look to regain his WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO belts after suffering defeat in New York earlier this year in front of some 15,000 fans, with thousands coming from the UK and hundreds more from the US as part of a global contingent from 65 countries traveling to Saudi Arabia for the fight.

Fans will be treated to a world class undercard of fighters as well as witness history in the making as Joshua battles Ruiz Jr.

Russian powerhouse Alexander Povetkin will face US heavyweight Michael Hunter in an eliminator for the WBA World Title, before Croatian star Filip Hrgovic puts his WBC International Championship on the line when he takes on US boxer Eric Molina.

Organizers believe the epic dual, the first-ever world heavyweight title fight in the Middle East, will have an incredible impact on the Saudi crowd and electrify the sport’s following in the Kingdom.

Due to its location away from the traditional boxing heartlands of the UK or the US, “The Clash on the Dunes” has already drawn comparisons with iconic bouts of Ali’s when he too traveled to fight in front of new fans.

Ali-Walsh said: “His strong convictions during the time of harsh and dangerous racism has made him the most respected athlete to date.  

“My father also took his fights to Zaire in Africa for the “Rumble in the Jungle” and to Asia for the “Thrilla in Manilla” where he inspired all those who had the honor of witnessing history in the making.

“During his trip to Saudi Arabia, he also made his much-anticipated holy trip to Makkah to participate in Hajj and Umrah.”

The fight forms part of the Diriyah Season, an epic month of sports which also features Formula E, the Diriyah Tennis Cup and the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, an elite competition with Tokyo Olympics 2020 qualifying points on the line.

Known as the home of kings and heroes and the birthplace of modern Saudi Arabia, Diriyah will also stage performances from some of the biggest music artists on the planet at the Diriyah Music Festival.