ADVENTURES IN DUBAI: YOUR FAVOURITE NUMBER ONE BLOG BRITISH DESIGNER LIVING IN DUBAI TELLS (NEARLY) ALL
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.
Property company Nakheel has announced that the Falling Down Villas on the hill above Jebel Ali Gardens, which have been standing empty for about three years while the cracks were plastered over, are now available to rent. A 3-bedroom villa in this not exactly Chelsea or Hampstead location will cost you Dhs 215,000 per year. That's 29,500 GBP, or 43,500 Euros, or 58,500 USD.
I have a buddy that I see fairly frequently down at Jelly Baby Cloob. For the sake of his privacy and continued residence in this country we'll call him Barty. He's a bit obsessive about a thing called Peak Oil. Peak Oil theory is a kind of a game: its purpose is to figure out when the oil will run out. I'm not talking about Extra Virgin Olive Oil; that grows on trees. I'm talking about the thick black stuff that takes millions of years to make and about a century to use up. The problem with Peak Oil is that not only do the goalposts keep moving, but nobody knows how wide or tall they are, nor how many of them there are.
The thing here is that there is no easily defined point where you can say 'right that's it, there is not a single drop of crude oil left that can be extracted from the earth.' You can always find a little bit more oil somewhere. But is it economically viable to extract that last drop? That would depend on the market price of oil.
There's a kind of bell curve that describes oil production over time. It starts off small, gradually gets bigger, reaches a peak, and then declines back to nothing. The great unknown is the actual true size of discovered oil reserves. Companies and countries have, in the past, deliberately overstated, or maybe just made calculation mistakes when figuring out how much oil they had that could be profitably extracted. But once we have passed the peak of this curve, then the world is set for some major changes.
Sorry, that was a bit long-winded. Here's the story.
Two weeks ago, Barty showed me a press article. It was an interview with a Kuwaiti Minister involved in oil, who was saying in no uncertain terms that the size of Kuwait's oil reserves were a matter of national security, and under no circumstances would he reveal how big those reserves were.
One week ago, I spotted an article in the Gulf News, in which a Kuwaiti Minister involved in oil said that Kuwait had revised its proven reserves of oil from 100 billion barrels to 48 billion barrels. A few minutes after I had read this, Barty showed up. Anything good in the papers?
'Kuwait now says its reserves are only 48% of what they had previously stated'. Barty was convinced I was taking the piss out of him. As if I would! I riffled through the paper and showed him the article. He was astounded, absolutely blown away.
Oddly, that report was nowhere to be found on Gulf News' website, and although the story was reported in other UAE papers, no mention was made of the reserves downgrade. But Barty did find a full report of it on the Kuwait Times website.
A day or so ago, Kuwait announced it was disconnecting its currency from the US dollar peg. All GCC currencies are pegged to the US dollar, and that has had a serious impact in the UAE in particular, as the value of the dollar dives headlong towards zero. So congratulations to Kuwait for removing the noose from around its neck. If the UAE would only have the guts to do the same, everybody here would start to feel (and be) better off.
But Barty, of course, has a theory that the USA will take punitive action against Kuwait. 'We helped you in the first Gulf War, and then we put out the fires in your oilfields, and now you repay us by not supporting the greenback.'
'Yes but we lost half of our oil in those fires.' So the USA invades Kuwait to take revenge for them demonstrating no confidence in the dollar.
'We'll have your oil.' But the wells are almost dry.
Dubai's RTA (Roads & Transport Authority) has donated a new word to the English lexicon: Salik. It's Arabic for 'clear', English for 'illogical, unworkable, doomed to failure'.
Salik is the brand name given to the hugely unpopular Road Toll Scheme. It is due to start on 1st July (fortunately I'll be leaving a week later so I won't be affected by it unless my taxi to the Airport decides to use SZR). Motorists will be charged at only two points on Sheikh Zayed Road: Garhoud Bridge and Mall of the Emirates. Now, we all know that this is the busiest stretch of SZR, but you'll be able to enter and leave the road at any point between those mentioned and not pay a bean. The logic of this, well, it defies logic. Even more illogical is that it will cost every vehicle Dhs 4 to pass the charging points at any hour of the day or night.
There have already been public spats between Dubai police and the RTA about this, but the RTA are determined to go ahead with it. I wonder, will it be the RTA collecting fines from people who don't have the means to pay the toll? Or the Police?
Here's my prediction of what will happen.
Mid-June: Salik cards go on sale. Everyone who works for the RTA buys them. Nobody else does.
1 July: Salik is switched on. Massive fines are recorded for vehicles without Salik cards. Traffic increases on Jumeirah Road and Al Wasl Road, but it is not total gridlock because all the schools are on holiday and most drivers are away or not doing school runs.
September: schools re-open. Jumeirah Beach Road and Al Wasl Road and that road that goes from Port Rashid towards Garhoud are completely gridlocked. Some people have been stuck in their cars for three days.
Sheikh Mohammed instructs the RTA to shut down Salik. Suggests they call him back in a couple of years when the Metro is open, and RTA have figured out how to run a proper bus service.
Ten days without a post from Keefieboy. Did you miss me?
Once again, the reason is that I have been very busy. I've been finishing off a massive e-commerce project for a company in Los Angeles that for various reasons has taken just over a year to get together. The other reason for my busyness is: Keefieboy has started writing a novel! I may be making a big mistake here by telling you about it. I'll look a right wally when I abandon it halfway through. Or when I do finish it but can't find an agent and publisher. Or it gets published and sells ten copies.
Virtually every website I've read about novel-writing says things like 'go ahead and do it if you want to, but don't expect to earn serious money from it.' But the first 10,000 words are embedded in silicon (only 90,000 to go!) and BetterArf has read it and assures me that it is as good as if not better than many other examples in its genre (comic fantasy). And I know she wouldn't lie to me!
Here's the Prologue:
This is a story about the land-locked island of Xanadu-du. Some say it is located in sub-Saharan Africa, interwoven with the nation of Mali. Others say you’re more likely to find it somewhere between the fifth and twenty-eighth dimensions, at any time between say, a week last Tuesday and five million years hence.
The people of Xanadu-du come from all over the world. Yes, this world, the one we call Earth. A few of the people were actually born in Xanadu-du, and if it was a real country they would have a Xanadu-du-ian passport. But of course, it’s not a real country, so they don’t. What they do have is a great capacity for arguing, and a hell of a lot of elephant manure. Which is odd really, because they don’t have that many actual elephants.
I have this idea in my head that a year or two ago Sheikh Mohammed announced a bit of a moratorium on announcements of new development projects. The moratorium was supposed to last five years, and the idea was that it would give the people and various gubment departments time to catch up with the new shape of things. I must have dreamed it.
This week is the monster exhibition, Arabian Travel Market, and since Dubai is basing a large chunk of its future on Travel and Tourism, this is when lots of announcements get made. So far we've had news that both the Jebel Ali and Deira Palms have been put on hold pending re-design (possibly related to the fact that if these projects get built as 'planned' there would not be a grain of sand left on the seabed of UAE territorial waters, and desert sand just will not do the job). That seemed like good news: after the experience of the Jebel Ali Palm it has become very clear that chucking a load of sand and rocks into the sea in the shape of a four-year-old's idea of what a palm tree looks like is somewhat more complex than you might imagine.
Announcements of more new stuff. The final phase of the Dubai Creek Extension that connects the Business Not-Much-Like-A-Bay body of water back to the Arabian Gulf. This effectively turns Bur Dubai and Jumeirah 1-and-a-bit into an island. [irony -->] I have no doubt whatsoever that the effects on water flow and ecology have been studied in great depth[<-- irony]. Gulf News had a diagram that shows the exact course of the Creek Extension. Apparently this stretch will be only 100 metres wide. 100 metres! Are you kidding?! It's not the Suez Canal or anything: the only traffic will be little motor boats, the odd rowing boat, and maybe a few abras (water-taxis). So, you lucky buggers who will still be in Dubai when this comes to pass: if you ever need to go west of Safa Park (or you live/work in West Dubai and need to go the other way) you will face the simultaneous buggeration of the newly-beautified Jumeirah Beach Road, Al Wasl Road and Sheikh Zayed Road while they build 100m bridges to span the Creek Extension. OUCH! Oh, and don't forget the Metro: that will have cross the water also. That was a minor announcement. Today we've had the news that Sheikh Mohammed has instructed Bawadi to have the biggest shopping area in the world.
Bawadi is a monster development of hotels, and hotels, and, er, hotels, out in the desert somewhere. The proposed shopping complex is slated to have more than 40 million square feet of GLA (Gross Leaseable Area). This is unimaginably horrible vast. I was at Mall of the Emirates yesterday, a mere tiddler of a mall with only 2.4 million square feet of GLA. After half-an-hour wasted trying to find a parking space, followed by a fair bit of walking around the mall trying to find various shops, I was overwhelmed, lost, disorientated and fed up.
Somebody, please tell me: what on Earth is the big deal about shopping malls? Yes I know, you go to a shop, it might have something you want, you might buy it. Or, in this region, it has free air-conditioning, the possibility of hanging out with your mates, etc. There never seems to be much actual buying of stuff going on (except at Carrefour).
Anyhoo, mustn't grumble: outta here in 2 months and 1 day. Jajaja.
Emaar's Burj Dubai recently became the tallest structure anywhere in Europe and the Middle East. But from a medium-to-close vantage point it doesn't actually seem that tall. It's only when you can see it from a distance (in this case Nadd Al Sheba) that the effects of perspective and foreshortening disappear, and you can really see how it towers (bad pun, sorry) over the other buildings on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Work on the Metro line from Jebel Ali to Dubai is hurtling on. As you drive up and down Sheikh Zayed Road you'll see four or five massive travelling gantries that are used to hoist the pre-fabricated track-holder sections in to place (I'm sure there's a proper name for these, but I don't know what it is).
I haven't seen any explanation as to why almost all of the track is elevated. I suspect there are at least four reasons.
1) It keeps idiots from trying to cross the tracks
2) It doesn't create a barrier to movement
3) It'll be another Guiness Book of Records entry
4) It looks beautiful and futuristic
Now I'm wondering: are they going to paint all this concrete? And what are they planning to do the open ends of the cross pieces? If the answer to the last question is 'stick adverts on them', I'm afraid someone will have to die.
A few months ago my shiny red Beemer decided it didn't want to play any more: it just wouldn't bluddi start. It would start with a jump from another vehicle, but the battery refused to hold a charge. I doubted that the solution would be as simple and cheap as a new battery, and I was right. Cash has been very tight for the last few months - most of what came in went straight back out again for rubbish like office rent, trade licence and apartment rent (all of which ultimately goes to Sheikh Mo, and he obviously needs it more than I do).
But finances improved a few weeks ago and I entrusted the car to the capable hands of the mechanics. They told me it needed a new air flow meter. Wikipedia tells me this is a gadget that measures how much air is whizzing through the engine so it can figure out how much petrol to squirt into it. Must be a wonderful piece of kit because it costs not much short of dhs 4,000. It took a bit over a week to arrive from Germany, and then the garage told me about a few other things that needed attention. I explained that money is not one of my core components, so they re-worked their quote using generic parts. It still adds up to a small fortune, but I guess that's part of the joy of car ownership.
So I collected it this morning, had a minor heart attack at the size of the bill, and then drove it across the road to Tasjeel because the registration had lapsed while it was off the road. Amazingly I had no fines to pay, but I did have to renew the insurance. Even though this was not due until next month, your insurance has to be valid for at least three months for the car to be registered. Don’t ask me why. So, some serious wallet damage, but at least I won't be placing my life at the mercy of overworked, overtired, overstressed, undertrained taxi drivers any more.