Friday, May 25, 2007

We Got the Power!

DEWA (Dubai Water & Electricity Authority) has announced plans to build a 9,000 MegaWatt power and desalination plant adjacent to Dubai World Central. This is close to the total generating capacity of New York City, and dwarfs Dubai's installed capacity of about 5,000 MegaWatts. So, Dubai, current population a bit over 1 million (it could be much more but the government seems to be completely incapable of keeping track of how many people it is actually serving), estimated population in 2017, 3-4 million, needs 14,000 MegaWatts of generating power, while New York City, population 8 million, needs less than 9,000 MegaWatts. This seems to indicate that Dubai residents use twice as much power as New Yorkers.

Indeed, this could well be the case. We are spoiled brats. We have the air conditioning 24/7 in our homes and offices - well, I don't, but I suspect an awful lot of people do. We use water like it just comes out of the sea - ok, it does, but it goes through a very expensive desalination process at the front end, and a cleaning process at the back end. We insist on having lots of green areas, and lush emerald vegetation on our numerous golf courses - yes, they are beautiful, but the cost is enormous.

I seem to remember DEWA having a problem a few years ago. They were tendering for a 1.8 MW plant, but had to scale it back to 1.3 MW because no contractors could meet the original order. Sadly, DEWA's website has not been updated since 2004, and so there is no up-to-date information on their capabilities.

I was heartened to see another DEWA story picked up by Seabee, in which the reporter seemed to imply that mega-developer Nakheel was talking to DEWA for the first time about the power and water requirements of the three Palm projects, the World, and that canal thing.

This is where we hit a crunch point. Dubai is already outrageously wasteful of electricity and water - far more so than almost anywhere else on the planet. DEWA is struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demand, to the point that they are considering laying a cable under the Arabian/Persian Gulf so that they can import electricity from Iran. Gas to run the existing power plants is in short supply - next month's launch of the Dolphin pipeline will ease things for a while - but with the potential doubling of demand, where is the fuel going to come from to run all this new kit?

It's time Dubai had a serious awareness campaign about energy and water conservation. I mean, really serious. Doubling the price of electricity would be a good start. Metering water consumption would be another. Getting everybody to realise that these are finite resources and we are wasting them faster than anyone else on the planet. When the oil and gas run out, there is no more. Without oil and gas, power stations and desalination plants will not run.

- Depressed of Jebel Ali

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