GULF countries have been urged to move away from conventional cooling technologies, with a new study predicting the region will have to invest around $120 billion solely on power plants by 2030 as temperatures continue to rise.
Cooling the region currently contributes to almost 50 to 60 per cent of the power demand, while reaching up to 70pc during peak hours, which is much higher than the global index.
The study conducted by global management consulting Booz and Company showed that due to cooling demand, population increase and infrastructure development, the power demand in the region would require $120bn of investments in power plants alone.
UN Environment Regional Montreal Protocol co-ordinator Ayman Eltalouny said this called for moving away from conventional technologies, such as refrigeration and air conditioning systems, to innovative solutions like district cooling.
District cooling is the centralised production and distribution of cooling energy, where chilled water is delivered via an underground insulated pipeline to office, industrial and residential buildings to cool the indoor air of the buildings within a district.
“We need to understand that the cooling in this region contributes to almost 50pc to 60pc of the power demand, and in the peak hours in some GCC countries this demand goes up to even 70pc,” said Mr Eltalouny.
“Globally, it is much less and this is because of the harsher climatic conditions in this region and the high dependency on the refrigeration and air conditioning technology.
“A study that was done by a global consulting firm in the Gulf showed that between 2015 and 2030 the power demand in this region because of the cooling demand, population increase and developments would require $120bn of investments in power plants alone, which is massive.
“It is time we start thinking outside the box as to what type of non-conventional solutions we can promote. It is here that the district cooling concept started to pop up, which is not something new.”
Mr Eltalouny said other options would be to utilise the waste heat from power plants and waste management plants, or using excess energy from solar systems.
He also said that the region has many district cooling projects but they have not been comprehensively considered as a project or component to contribute to a sustainable operation.
“This means currently 100pc of the cooling projects in the region are making use of conventional technology and are standalone, whether in Bahrain or in any other GCC state,” he explained.
“However, if you look at the comprehensive approach you can utilise the waste heat from power plants and waste management plants, as well as using partially from the solar heating systems.
“The combination of all of these can together result in the reduction of the power demand in any country by up to 50pc or 60pc.
He added that the operational costs would also reduce by almost 80pc if cooling technology using deep sea water was used compared to conventional systems.
Mr Eltalouny also highlighted Bahrain’s potential in contributing to such innovative technologies and called for a regionally integrated approach for better results.
He said the UN Environment based in Bahrain would be “more than willing to connect the country with international agencies and potential partners” that can provide the expertise and the know-how to deploy such technology.
“Bahrain has the potential to contribute heavily in this aspect as there are many developed areas and developing areas that could adopt such technologies,” he said.
“This is the right time to put this into consideration.”
The study highlights that the fuel needed to power air conditioning in the GCC by 2030 will be the equivalent of 1.5 million barrels of oil per day. It also identified that district cooling could effectively serve 30pc of the region’s cooling requirements by 2030, if implemented under the right conditions.