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As Dubai continues its journey to achieve its energy targets, it is becoming increasingly imperative that the various stakeholders along the energy value chain join hands and actively contribute to this vision. The built environment is the single largest consumer of energy and thus any energy efficiencies here will translate into serious energy savings.

Managing demand and optimising energy use are becoming central to the aim to raise energy efficiency by 30 per cent by 2030. And the government has appointed several regulatory bodies to assist the built environment with this transition.

Most of Dubai’s energy is consumed in or around buildings and there is a lot that stakeholders along the entire value chain of the built environment can do to reduce this consumption.

Elie Matar

How can Dubai’s built environment contribute to energy efficiency and savings? “Most of Dubai’s energy is consumed in or around buildings and there is a lot that stakeholders along the entire value chain of the built environment can do to reduce this consumption,” Elie Matar, head of electricity at Dubai’s Regulatory and Supervisory Bureau (RSB), tells PW. RSB has been established to develop the regulatory frameworks for energy supply and efficient-energy use.

He suggests a wide spectrum of initiatives, such as:

• Buildings should be designed according to high-efficiency standards. Dubai Municipality’s green building regulations or Sa’fat sets minimum requirements to improve the performance of buildings by enhancing the planning, design, construction and operation of buildings and hence reducing consumption of energy, water and materials.

• Buildings should be built and commissioned as designed to attain the performance standards they were intended to achieve.

• Buildings, including their systems and equipment, also ought to be operated and maintained properly to perform their intended functions efficiently.

• Building users and occupants have a major say in energy consumption and need to consume responsibly and minimise energy and water wastage.

“Therefore, all players from government authorities, developers and owners, consultants, contractors and service providers to building occupants, hold key roles in the energy efficiency journey,” says Matar.

What regulations to pursue?

A mix of mandated and voluntary regulations can help foster the market. While strict standards are being applied to new builds in Dubai by means of a green building code, the regulations bureau is helping demand-side management — managing the consumer demand for energy through initiatives like retrofits. Retrofits have become central to the energy drive, resulting in significant financial and energy savings as the built environment benefits from new technologies and replacement of old fixtures, water systems etc. RSB has also been very active in helping shape up Energy Service Companies (Escos) that help customers implement energy saving measures across the built environment, and make buildings more eco-friendly.

Demand-side management

Also known as energy demand management, demand-side management is the modification of consumer demand for energy through various methods such as financial incentives and behavioural change through education.

Escos have long suffered from a lack of framework and regulations to govern the energy-saving contracts. But with the intervention of RSB, the role has become streamlined, with the accreditation offering customers a sense of confidence that contracted companies are governed by a regulatory standard. A building owner looking to enable energy savings now has a host of accredited Escos to choose from, including some top facilities management (FM) companies.

Benefits for FM companies, end users

The Esco accreditation scheme is promoting trust in the market and helping owners overcome the barrier of identifying capable Escos and entering into fair energy performance contracts (EPC). The growing number successfully retrofitted projects are a sure sign of its success. The scheme offers a measurement and verification (M&V) protocol based on international references, and the accreditation process assesses an Esco’s M&V practice and its ability to effectively measure savings within changing environments and conditions.


An energy service company (Esco) is a commercial or nonprofit business providing a broad range of energy solutions, including designs and implementation of energy-saving projects, retrofitting, energy conservation, energy infrastructure outsourcing, power generation and energy supply, and risk management.

Being accredited gives Escos higher credibility and grants them exclusive access to Etihad Esco projects, Dubai’s super Esco that manages audit and retrofit projects for government buildings and other large-scale projects for the private sector. Etihad Esco and end users benefit from having a shortlist of competent, pre-qualified Escos to choose from to investigate their savings potential and implement their energy efficiency projects.

Other ways to increase energy efficiency

The built environment should not be dependent on regulation to start energy-efficiency campaigns. As energy consciousness increases more developers, building owners and occupants realise the impact that energy efficiency can have on their bottom line, Matar says installing energy and water-efficient systems is becoming more common.

How can building owners raise awareness?

Building owners and managers can raise awareness on energy efficiency among building users. They can inform occupants of the measures implemented to raise energy efficiency and reduce consumption, and educate users on how to conserve energy and water.

Benchmarking is another useful way to drive energy efficiency by gauging the performance of one’s building or portfolio of buildings against comparable ones and recognising improvement and savings potential.

Matar says some organisations have developed such benchmarks for building portfolios to which they have access, while the RSB is working on designing an energy and water rating scheme on a wider scale.