Programmes to reduce water and power consumption in Qatar

 

As the National Programme for Conservation and Energy Efficiency (Tarsheed) moves into its eighth year, the Qatari government continues to pursue a variety of initiatives to support its drive towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly rates of water and electricity consumption. With earth-conscious technologies drawing increased global investment and coming down in price as a result, Tarsheed is creating opportunities for private sector players that offer products and services that support the government’s vision, particularly in the areas of electric car-charging infrastructure and district cooling.

Background

Building on the agenda of environmental sustainability set in motion in 2008 by Qatar National Vision 2030, Tarsheed was launched in 2012 by the Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa), under the patronage of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Amir of Qatar. Both the 2030 vision and Tarsheed share the Qatari leadership’s stated belief that “no socio-economic growth can be sustained without a comprehensive vision that seeks to protect the environment for generations to come”.

Launched by Kahramaa’s Conservation and Energy Efficiency Department, which had been established one year earlier, in October 2011, Tarsheed was designed as a public-facing campaign to transform Qatar into a regional leader in the reduction of electricity and water consumption by encouraging conservation and reduction practices among citizens and businesses. Acknowledging that as of 2011 Qatar had one of the world’s highest per capita electricity and water consumption rates, Tarsheed stated its bottom-line objectives as bringing down per capita electricity consumption by 20% and per capita water consumption by 35% in its first five years.

While Tarsheed did not quite manage to reach the high targets it set, it did make a considerable impact: by the end of 2017 the programme had succeeded in reducing per capita consumption of electricity by 18% and water by 20%, as well as curbing overall carbon emissions by 14m tonnes and saving some 265bn cu feet of natural gas. In addition to improving the country’s sustainability credentials and easing pressure on its lucrative natural gas and scarce water resources, the programme was estimated to have produced around QR5bn ($1.4bn) in savings.

Qatar’s high energy consumption is intrinsically linked to its economic and climatic features. According to the latest World Bank data, Qatar has one of the world’s highest rates of GDP per capita, a figure that tends to broadly correlate with per capita energy consumption. Qatar’s consistently hot temperatures have made air conditioning an integral part of daily life and ensured high energy consumption rates; a 2018 study published by Hamad Bin Khalifa University indicated that annual demand for cooling constituted around 36% of total electricity consumption.

Water consumption is also a particularly urgent topic in Qatar, given its lack of naturally occurring fresh water resources and annual average rainfall of 130 mm. As a result, 99% of potable water in Qatar comes from desalination, and the government is aware that use of the technology comes at an environmental cost, producing brine and raising air pollution levels.

Initiatives

The programme’s mechanisms have taken many forms, from public awareness campaigns to financial incentives, regulations and legal penalties. In 2015, for example, Kahramaa oversaw the implementation of Conservation Law No. 20/2015, which prohibited the use of potable water for washing cars or cleaning building yards, leaving outdoor lights turned on between 7.00am and 4.30pm, and failing to fix broken or damaged taps and pipes. The law was accompanied by a multi-channel awareness campaign along the theme of “bad habits cost”.

The level of public awareness around Tarsheed’s energy conservation drive has been helped by infrastructure such as the Kahramaa Awareness Park, launched in 2017 to promote awareness and good practices around energy conservation among children. The park has thus far proven popular with the public: between April 2017 and August 2018 over 50,000 people visited the park, while in March 2019 it won an award for innovative environmental education at the Cambridge IFA Global Good Governance Awards in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was also recognised as part of the UNESCO Global Water Museums Network in 2018.

Phase Two

Under the second phase of Tarsheed, which spans from 2018 to 2022, the programme is aiming to decrease per capita electricity consumption by a further 6% and water consumption by a further 10%, as well as provide technical support to the country’s renewable energy drive. It hopes to encourage private government entities to install and develop generation capacity using renewable energy sources, particularly solar power, through the introduction of net-metering and blockchain projects.

Tarsheed plays a key role in the national Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2018-22, which the government describes as “one of the most important pillars of Qatar Second National Development Strategy 2018-22 (NDS-2)”. NDS-2 emphasises the urgency of changing practices around water and electricity, noting that “unsustainable consumption of water is high” and stressing that rather than focusing on increasing supply, it is “essential to focus on the demand side and its determinants, including water utilisation efficiency, proper management, use of techniques in homes and hotels, and installation of smart meters”.

Promoting electric car infrastructure is another tenet of Tarsheed’s current phase, with the programme aiming to have electric cars make up 10% of all cars sold and account for 3-5% of the country’s total number of cars by 2022. A key aspect of promoting electric car use is its plan to expand the network of charging stations for electric cars. Speaking in November 2019, Kahramaa’s president, Essa bin Hilal Al Kuwari, told local media that the corporation was cooperating with the Ministry of Transport and Communications to develop a nationwide plan to open 400 charging stations across the country by 2022.

The regulator is also planning to increase the number of charging stations that are powered by solar energy. In late November 2019 Qatar’s first charging station using photovoltaic technology opened at Kahramaa’s Mesaimeer Complex, adding to the electric charging stations already in operation at nine other locations. The inaugural solar charging station is powered by 216 PV panels with peak production capacity of 72-KW and covers a total of 270 sq metres, an area equivalent to 24 car-parking spaces.

District Cooling

Qatar has also supported energy conservation via its early adoption of district cooling as an alternative to air conditioning. From a base of 25,700 tonnes of refrigeration (TR) capacity in 2007, Qatar’s total district cooling capacity rose to over 2m TR by 2017, with a further 963,350 TR expected to come on-line throughout 2020. Data published by the Japan Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Association in June 2019 indicates that Qatar’s total demand for air-conditioning units fell from 275,000 in 2013 to 217,000 in 2018, a decline of 22.5%. The technology is said to consume 30-40% less energy than air conditioning. Although it does consume large amounts of water, Qatar has worked to tackle this issue by banning the use of potable water in district cooling since 2013, requiring plants using the technology to submit plans to switch to treated sewage effluent in a bid to reduce the pressure on desalinated water resources.

Increased adoption of district cooling across the GCC is driving growth in the worldwide district-cooling market, with a Forbes Business Insights report from September 2019 forecasting that compound annual growth in the global market would hit 7.8% in the years to 2026. The segment’s largest operators are Qatar Cool and Marafeq Qatar: the former serves The Pearl Qatar and West Bay districts through four plants with a combined capacity of 222,500 TR, while the latter serves the Barwa City project with 35,000 TR of cooling capacity and is planning to provide 500,000 TR to the Lusail City development.

Hotels & Residences

Kahramaa is rolling out specific initiatives aimed at encouraging energy savings in hotels and domestic residences. In April 2019 local media reported that the regulator was planning to devise an energy efficiency certification for hotels. Following an audit carried out by Kahramaa, the certification would be awarded on an annual basis to hotels that reach high levels of energy efficiency.

On the domestic front, Kahramaa said it was planning to bring the regulation of home appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines under the remit of Tarsheed as a means to encourage the import and sale of more energy-efficient products. The regulator previously introduced minimum energy performance standards and labelling, and announced in April 2019 that the second phase of its energy efficiency rating for air conditioners would be launched soon.

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