Solar will continue to play an increasingly important role in the construction industry in the UAE and in the region, especially as more developers take note of the massive benefits that come with incorporating solar energy systems into their existing and future projects, experts said.
Speaking at the fourth edition of the Global Solar Leader's Summit, which is part of The Big 5 Solar show, experts from the industry highlighted the need for companies to take a more proactive approach.
In his opening address, Ali Mohammed Al Jassim, chief executive officer of Etihad ESCO, said that the UAE is leading the region when it comes to incorporating energy efficiency solution.
"We saved Dubai over Dh40 million in the 2016 to 2017 period through retrofitting, and our success story has been heard around the globe. We have a plan and target to retrofit a total of 30,000 buildings - a target of 2,000 per year. No other city has undertaken such a challenging target, but we have a path, a goal, and a plan. Another thing that we are looking at is building labeling; every building that has been retrofitted and achieved savings should be recognised and studied. We are working on the operational plan for this and it will be made public in 2019/20," he said.
Chris Kilbee, SVP at dmg events, noted that much of the energy consumption in the region stems from the demand in urban locations.
"The residential sector is responsible for the consumption of almost 47 per cent of the GCC's total energy, against a global average of 25 per cent. If we consider that there are more than 23,000 active construction projects in the GCC right now, we understand that it is extremely important for the solar and the construction industries to join forces, address current challenges, and harness the immense opportunities that lie ahead."
Many experts also spoke about how the technology for solar power generation in urban spaces had evolved over the past few years, to a point where developers have no reason not to adopt the technology.
"It's not just about solar farms in the region anymore," said Neil Doe, founder and CEO of O3CM Qi-energy. "You have miles and miles of urban space in cities that can be turned into energy generation units. The possibilities are truly endless in a city like Dubai, which loves its architecture."
There is nothing stopping developers and operators from incorporating solar panels on building facades and rooftops. The region gets plenty of sunlight, so turning it into energy and linking it to the grid is almost a given. The technology is already there and all you need to do is retrofit it into the existing structures."
Minjian Hu, CEO of Hanergy Middle East, added that there are a wealth of options that are available for developers to look into increasing the sustainability of their buildings. "In a region where you are blessed with 365 days of direct sunlight, why wouldn't you want to use it and help you save on your costs?"