OPN 190912 Renewable energy-1568286166046
The 950MW Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The management of energy demand clearly requires engagement from consumers. Image Credit:

With its focus on innovation, the UAE is well-positioned to lead by example and assume a global role in its transition to a low-carbon economy. This week, energy thought leaders from across the globe are congregating in Abu Dhabi for the 24th World Energy Congress. A triennial event organised by the World Energy Council, this year’s edition focuses on the theme, ‘Energy for Prosperity’ and marks the first time the Congress is being hosted in the Arabian Gulf.

As the deliberations amongst government and industry leaders unfold, it is notable that the energy consumer lies at the core of the technology-led sustainable energy transition that is underway today and that is necessary to combat climate change. While policy and regulation play a significant role in driving the energy agenda, the move to a sustainable energy ecosystem is also driven by changes in consumer behavior.

The management of energy demand clearly requires engagement from consumers. It is important, first, that consumers understand that the energy choices they make have a broader impact on society and the environment. In energy-rich economies, consumers may not understand the scarcity or value of energy resources. Consumers may also not be aware that their consumption is high and can be reduced.

However, with the widespread use of smartphones and digital applications, it is now possible for consumers to monitor and track energy consumption patterns. Here in the UAE, the Ministry of Energy and Industry (MoEI) provides an online application that allows consumers to compare their electricity consumption with an average UAE household.

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Consumers also need access to the information needed to make informed choices. Energy labelling for electrical appliances and cars is a critical first step towards empowering them. The introduction of these labels needs to be coupled with public education campaigns and the provision of adequate point-of-sale information.

For instance, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) fuel efficiency label for light-duty vehicles in the UAE allows consumers to check the relative efficiency of vehicles when buying a car. Alongside, the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology has developed an online tool to enable drivers to learn more about vehicle specifications, including mileage, with the ease of a click.

Since factoring in energy efficiency in buying decisions can sometimes mean investing higher initial capital for long-term energy and savings, it is important that the savings associated with these choices are sufficiently advertised.

Although energy supply was traditionally the government’s domain, with consumers often not having control over where their power supply came from, times are changing. The availability of decentralized energy solutions such as rooftop solar photovoltaics has created opportunities for consumers, and deepened consumer engagement at the energy production end, leading to the rise of the term ‘prosumer’.

The world needs to move towards sustainable energy – increase efficiency of supply and consumption and increase the share of renewable energy. This energy transition is critical to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, to which the UAE is committed

- Deepti Mahajan Mittal

Consumers can support the transition to renewable energy by utilizing decentralized power technologies. In the UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have net-metering policies that encourage home-owners, property developers and commercial establishments to install solar rooftops – which is excellent news for those looking to diversify their energy supply by taking up solar energy.

The UAE MoEI has developed an online solar application called Shuaa, enabling those interested in installing solar rooftop systems to identify the potential for solar energy production in a given area.

Today, interest in the changing role of the energy consumer has also heightened with power grids becoming smarter, and growing opportunities offered by convergence of information technologies and applications of blockchain. It is expected that these technologies will enable consumers to fashion automated sustainable lifestyles for themselves.

The world needs to move towards sustainable energy – increase efficiency of supply and consumption and increase the share of renewable energy. This energy transition is critical to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, to which the UAE is committed.

It is imperative that governments, the private sector, communities and individuals all play their role and by bringing the energy consumer to the forefront of the equation, we can facilitate community engagement on this critical issue and harness consumer power to support the move to renewable energy.

—Deepti Mahajan Mittal is the Head of Climate and Energy, Emirates Nature-WWF.