Balancing energy supply with demand

by  — 29 May 2016

Has the term ‘energy efficiency’ merely become a buzzword in recent years? Has the energy crisis taken its toll on humanity to such an extent that we have become indifferent to its potential risks? No matter what your answers may be, the fact remains: balancing energy supply and energy demand, especially in the midst of climate change, will continue to be a pressing issue that affects humankind as a whole, writes Yasser Salah Al Jaidah.

The question still remains whether we as individuals consider ourselves part of the world’s energy problem. Something tells me that a randomised sample survey will show otherwise, which brings me to the heart of the problem: the energy crisis has not yet reached a tipping point.

It is no secret that today’s energy systems are facing many challenges: the steady growth of global energy demand, depletion of energy resources and increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, to name a few.

The combined effect of these challenges deserves a more sustainable approach to energy consumption – whether in energy generation or manufacturing environments. Such sustainable solutions, of course, not only improve energy efficiency, but also contribute to the cost efficiency of existing energy systems.

As such, it is imperative for governments to adopt ‘green’ technologies when it comes to energy production in the interest of minimising waste and preserving natural resources. Nonetheless, making such changes in the short run may not be as easy as it sounds since urban planning usually takes into consideration other variables such as population density and spatial mapping.

In the long run, however, incorporating environment-friendly technologies and energy-efficient systems such as district cooling networks and zero-waste developments will set the stage for building the future cities of tomorrow, where the population is expected to increase substantially leading to increased energy demand.

Furthermore, it is worth stressing on the potential negative environmental impact imposed by the creation of densely populated cities. The increased heat retention in exposed surfaces and heat generated by activities from buildings in heavily populated areas trigger an Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect that causes temperature in its surroundings to rise. The latter can be mitigated through the use of green roofs and increased vegetation and retrofitting buildings with more energy-efficient utility infrastructures such as district cooling systems.

Consequently, assigning district cooling ‘zones’ in urban plans for areas with a density cutoff ratio of around 10,000 tonnes of refrigeration per square kilometre or more, can be economically feasible for both the utility provider and user alike. Most importantly though, such design would allow for approximate savings of 40 percent to 50 percent in energy usage when compared to the energy consumption of conventional air-conditioning methods in such densely populated areas, let alone reducing the UHI effect.

To put things into perspective, district cooling could provide around 30 percent of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s forecast cooling needs by 2030. This would prevent the region from having to build 20 gigawatts in new electricity-generating capacity, and save 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in fuel.  

Yasser Salah Al Jaidah is the CEO of Qatar Cool.

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