“Developers need to involve district cooling providers at early design stage," says CEO of Empower

In an exclusive interview with MEP Middle East, Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower, talks about countering over-design in district cooling and the use of TSE water.

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Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower, speaking at the IDEA conference.
Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower, speaking at the IDEA conference.

According to some analysts, district cooling tenants at times are bearing the cost of building and maintaining the cooling plants in their monthly bills, thereby increasing the prices beyond those seen in individually-cooled properties.

Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower, says that the load is already allocated and the bill will come directly to the tenant. He says: “I did not allocate that load. The building owner/developer has allocated it. If they need 6 to 7 tonnes for an apartment, I simply provide the service. We tell users to set the temperature at 24 degree C to reduce consumption and save money.” 

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Shafar was talking to MEP Middle East on the side-lines of International District Energy Association (IDEA) District Cooling Conference and Tradeshow which was held on 10 December 2018 in Dubai.

Faisal Rashid, director, Demand Side Management, Supreme Council of Energy, on issues related to the district cooling sector, particularly with respect to billing, said in an earlier interview that when district cooling providers supply cooling to developers, they end up over designing. Rashid said: “You need to ensure that the district cooling capacity is within the design. The cost of billing will be reasonable for the tenant and consumer. I think this is important.”
Shafar does agree with the above. However, developers don’t seem to understand that district cooling providers need to be involved at an early stage. Shafar asks: “Do I need to be penalised if I am not involved in the initial stages of design?”
He explains with an example: “If you want me to design in a certain way, I will charge you for it and design it. If you decide to provide a one bed room with 5 tonnes of cooling and a two bed room 6 tonnes of cooling, it doesn’t sound right to me but the client may need it. People have to pay for what they have used. Instead, if I had 10 tonnes, I would provide 5 tonnes to the two bed room and 3 tonnes to the one bed room. I will provide 8 tonnes of cooling instead of 10, thus saving 20%.”

“You (building owners) have to listen to us. If we give you something wrong, we are accountable, not you. If you have a shortage, we will give you more.” 
Talking about the use of TSE (treated sewage effluent) water in Empower’s district cooling network, Shafar says that it is a solution that they are considering as a solution for their future business. He says: “The district cooling sector is growing. We cannot say we will not use TSE because the amount of water we are consuming is huge. So there is not enough natural resources to supply water to district cooling. We need to use more TSE water and preserve water for the new generation as the population is increasing. In some plants we use 40% potable water and 60% desalinated water and we are trying to connect it to all plant rooms if possible.”

On Empower’s vision with regards to automation, Shafar says that the company is constructing a plant in JVC, Dubai, which will be fully automated. He says: “The plant will run by itself and we will connect it to our command control system. If there is any failure, our maintenance team can address it within 20 minutes. There are alarms that will go off at the command control, which will alert our engineer of a specific problem with regards to a chiller, for instance.”

Empower foresees itself acquiring a company in the near future, although Shafar did not disclose much details. He says: “The market is on a slow trend and there is a chance for me to acquire one of the companies. You will hear some good news in the next few weeks.” 
The IDEA conference discussed strategies for exposing the full value of district energy, extending the opportunity for district cooling, design and data challenges for performance excellence as well as smart approaches for metering, controls and optimisation.

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