December 13th, 2014
Rob Thornton says Arab universities can achieve economies of scale and lessen impact on natural resources by adopting North American universities’ model
Mr. Robert Thornton, President and CEO, International District Energy Association (IDEA), says Arab universities should consider district cooling systems instead of conventional chilling systems to achieve economies of scale and lessen the impact on key resources such as water and electricity.
This statement was made on the eve of the 2014 IDEA International District Cooling Conference to be held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Supreme Council of Energy and Chairman and Chief Executive Emirates Airline & Group, from 14 to 16 December at Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
Thornton said: “To simply define district cooling, it is a system to cool multiple nearby buildings from a highly efficient central plant via a chilled water piping network. Many university campuses in the Arab world are significant energy users and may benefit by adoption of district cooling for a campus community to deliver reliable, efficient and more sustainable energy services.”
He added: “Hundreds of North American colleges and universities such as Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, UCLA, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Michigan, etc have highly efficient district energy systems and are active members of IDEA where they come together to share their experience and successes. We welcome Arab universities to consider joining IDEA to learn from their counterparts in North America on technologies and best practices in deploying district energy to achieve conservation of natural resources and reduce emissions of greenhouse gas emissions. On our campuses, district energy with combined heat & power (CHP) has often been the single most effective environmental strategy to reduce carbon emissions as part of a campus climate action plan.”
Thornton cited the example of the University of Texas at Austin (UT), which operates a large district energy CHP facility to produce all the power, heating and cooling for the research-focused university campus, essentially a small city of 70,000 students and faculty. Over a span of more than a decade, the campus area served by UT's district energy plant nearly doubled in size from 9 million square feet of building space to 18 million square feet. During that time, UT Austin continued to invest in highly efficient district energy technologies and managed to keep energy consumption constant while the space served doubled – essentially providing “carbon free” real estate growth – a remarkable achievement in a harsh cooling climate similar to Dubai. “UT Austin has been recognized globally not only for their leadership in energy efficiency, but their willingness to help others learn and replicate their approach”, says Thornton.
Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower added: “District cooling delivers chilled water to buildings like offices, apartment towers and factories for cooling purposes. It is more environment friendly than using electricity to run compressors in conventional cooling. It allows an overall energy efficiency whose benefits Arab universities should not underestimate.”
Bin Shafar added: “District cooling systems can replace the air-cooled chiller systems used at universities in the Arab world that are currently consuming large amounts of electricity for their campus buildings.”
Thornton added: “Underpinning the opportunities for district cooling deployment in the GCC is the fact that the region is recognizing the environmental benefits of district cooling, which is 30-40% more efficient than traditional air conditioning, which results in reduction in electricity consumption and resource conservation.”
Thornton said that the rapidly growing popularity of district cooling in the Gulf is due to the recognition and awareness of top national planners in the importance of this technology in achieving conservation of natural resources.
Thornton added: “Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower), the world's largest district cooling provider in terms of capacity, is hosting the 6th edition of this international conference. The company has played an instrumental role in the growth of this industry in the UAE.”
Decision makers from district cooling industry as well as relevant sectors like real estate, banking, urban planning, construction, and utilities are starting to arrive to Dubai to attend the IDEA’s 6th International District Cooling conference at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. More information is available at www.ideacooling2014.org.