Environmental Sustainability

VOLUME 9 ISSUE 2 The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability _________________________________________________________________________...
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The International Journal of

Environmental Sustainability __________________________________________________________________________

Applying Energy-efficient Water Heating Practices on the Residential Buildings of the United Arab Emirates HANAN TALEB AND YASSER AL-SALEH


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY http://onsustainability.com/ First published in 2014 in Champaign, Illinois, USA by Common Ground Publishing University of Illinois Research Park 2001 South First St, Suite 202 Champaign, IL 61820 USA www.CommonGroundPublishing.com ISSN: 2325-1077 © 2014 (individual papers), the author(s) © 2014 (selection and editorial matter) Common Ground All rights reserved. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the applicable copyright legislation, no part of this work may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the publisher. For permissions and other inquiries, please contact . The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

Applying Energy-efficient Water Heating Practices to the Residential Buildings of the United Arab Emirates Hanan Taleb, British University in Dubai, UAE Yasser Al-Saleh, INSEAD Innovation and Policy Initiative, Abu Dhabi, UAE Abstract: With the growing evidence of the phenomenon of anthropogenic global warming, it has become necessary to take immediate action to avoid disastrous consequences for future generations. Since buildings are a major energy consumer, their potential impact on the environment is considerable. Therefore, expanding the application of lowenergy architecture is of the utmost importance. Water heating is a thermodynamic process that involves using an energy source to heat water above its initial temperature. Thus, the application of energy-efficient domestic water heating systems has a potential for reducing the energy consumption levels of buildings. In many countries, the most common energy sources for heating domestic water are fossil fuels. This is certainly the case in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region which includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The aim of this paper is to investigate the potential for energy savings of applying energy-efficient water heating practices in the buildings of the UAE. A typical residential building in Dubai was chosen as a case study. With the aid of energy simulation software, the potential energy savings - after applying the energy efficient water heating system - was monitored. Moreover, the paper drew some recommendations with regard to solving many problems that the domestic water system is suffering from and has provided some solutions to improve performance and further reduce energy consumption. As a final note, whilst this paper mainly focuses on residential buildings in the UAE, it could be argued that many of the research outcomes are relevant to several countries especially those with similar social and extreme environmental conditions. Keywords: Energy Efficiency, Water Heating, Residential Buildings, Building Performance Simulation, United Arab Emirates




educing energy demand in the building sector is high on the agenda around the world. According to the International Energy Agency (2012), buildings account for more than 35% of the world’s total energy demand, of which 75% is for space and domestic water heating. This is particularly the case when considering residential buildings, which usually need hot water at about 50-60oC for domestic purposes (Dharuman et al., 2006). To that end, solar water heating is considered as an attractive way to reduce the environmental footprint of the residential building sector. In addition to the attractiveness of utilising solar energy, people usually overlook the prospects for reducing heating loads through the use of energy-efficient electric water heaters. This paper examines the energy saving potential that could result from implementing both of these strategies in the residential sector of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The decision to consider the case of the UAE has been motivated by the fact that it is, as is the case with other countries in the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, in desperate need of implementing sustainable energy practices. To that end, this paper attempts to answer the following key questions; (i) What are the likely energy saving potentials of applying energyefficient heating practices to the residential sector of the UAE?; (ii) What are the current challenges that may impede implementing such practices? These questions are addressed through the use of energy simulation tools, real experiments and in-depth interviews with informants. The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability Volume 9, 2014, onsustainability.com, ISSN: 2325-1077 © Common Ground, Hanan Taleb, Yasser Al-Saleh, All Rights Reserved Permissions: [email protected]


Having introduced the context behind this work, the remainder of the paper is structured as follows; firstly, the case of the UAE, its energy needs and also potential for solar thermal application are discussed. Next, the research methods adopted in this paper are introduced, before presenting and discussing the research findings.

2. Literature Review Due to the availability of cheap electricity, energy consumption rates have been increasing at a fast rate. In addition to the rapid growth of energy demand, it is worth remembering that the UAE relies almost entirely on oil and gas to satisfy its electricity needs. Hence, there is an obvious need to both rationalise domestic energy use and use renewable energy technologies to meet parts of its energy demand (Al-Saleh, 2010). As is the case with many parts of the world, residential consumers make up the largest share of electricity consumption (see Figure 1). In the GCC countries, however, a large share of residential electricity is used for air conditioning and refrigeration purposes (Akbari et al., 1996). A significant proportion of electricity is consumed for water heating purposes. According to the Regulation and Supervision Bureau (2007), a person living in Dubai consumes on average 50 litres of water per day. Despite the availability of high direct solar radiation levels (around 6 kWh/m2/day), in addition to receiving some of the world’s highest yearly hours of sunshine (around 3,300 hours), the use of solar thermal technologies for domestic heating purposes is very limited in the UAE to date (Al-Saleh, 2009; Ferroukhi, 2011). This might come as a surprise since water heating is perhaps the most attractive way of utilising solar energy in this region due to the regular daily demand for hot water at moderate temperature, leading to efficient collection of the incident solar radiation with the need for large storage (Mohsen et al., 2009). An additional, yet overlooked, advantage is that solar heaters are easily-shifted loads that could be controlled to reduce peak demands (Moreau, 2011). As well as the minimal use of renewable energy technologies, there seems to be a significant saving potential from using energy-efficient equipment, especially for air conditioning, within the houses of the UAE (Radhi, 2009).

Figure 1: Electricity Consumption by Sector in the UAE Source: Data adapted from Regulation and Supervision Bureau (2007)



A closer look reveals that the energy consumption of buildings in the UAE - and the GCC region in general - is among the highest in the world. In fact, a study conducted over a decade ago pointed out that energy use per area in UAE domestic buildings was already exceeding comparable examples in Europe (AbulNaga and Elsheshtawy, 2001). Over recent years, the situation has been compounded by rapid population growth, a high level of economic growth and increased urbanisation (Al-Shehri, 2008). According to Taleb and Pitts (2009), reasons behind such a poor sustainability record go beyond the conventional factor of high capital costs for renewable and energy-efficient products, and include other factors whose bearing are somewhat distinctive to the GCC region. These include poor public acceptance of efficient energy practices and products – an attitude that seems to be motivated by the availability of cheap electricity. Another study by Al-Saleh and Taleb (2010) confirms that the biggest challenge appears to be a severe lack of sustainability awareness across GCC nationals. Table 1 shows how the energy consumption rates vary in the UAE according to demographics. It is, therefore, not surprising to witness the sheer size of public awareness campaigns that have been recently launched in the region, particularly in the UAE, in order to raise the level of environmental consciousness among citizens (Ghazal-Aswad et al., 2012) Table 1: Residential Energy Consumption Rates in the UAE Nationality Ex-pats

Property kWh per year Apartment 7,200 – 12,400 Villa 32,100 – 97,000 Apartment 12,000 UAE-nationals Villa 93,000 – 97,000 Source: Data adapted from Regulation and Supervision Bureau (2007) Moreover, various studies have called for the formulation of policies on both the use of renewable energy and the rational use of energy in order to enhance the sustainability status of buildings across the GCC region (e.g. Mahroum and Al-Saleh, 2012; Taleb and Al-Saleh, 2010; Taleb and Sharples, 2010). Given that limited success has been achieved on the policy front, there is a need to establish a deeper understanding of the obstacles currently facing the implementation of sustainable energy practices in the residential sector of the UAE. Bearing in mind that the country currently lags behind global standards of energy use efficiency, it is of interest to assess the saving potential and likelihood of applying energy-efficient heating practices in the residential sector of the UAE. With this in mind, the next section discusses the methodology that was adopted in order to achieve this aim.

3. Research Methodology Different research methods have been used to address the aforementioned main research questions; namely (i) What are the likely energy saving potentials of applying energy-efficient heating practices to the residential sector of the UAE? (ii) What are the current challenges that may impede implementing such practices? Whilst an experimental research approach was opted for when addressing the first question, the main research method for the second question was indepth interviews. The experimental research involved field testing and computer-based energy simulation conducted on a typical UAE house, to be referred to as the ‘case study’.



3.1 Experimental Approach Experimenting and monitoring the case study has lasted for two years. It involved collecting and keeping records of the electric utility bills for the case study during the first year (i.e. the base case). After that, the house underwent several modifications, which included; (i) installing a solar water heater that feeds four toilets in the house; (ii) the installation of more efficient electric heaters in the remaining four toilets; (iii) changing the temperature set point for the hot water from 85 to 65oC; and (iv) switching off all water heaters during the summer. The utility bills were then collected for the subsequent year and have shown a noticeable reduction in overall electricity consumption (i.e. the efficient case). The utility bill readings have been validated and further investigated through conducting an energy simulation study.

3.2 Simulation Study Simulation was conducted on both the base and efficient cases. The simulations for the base case were used for calibration purposes, whilst for the efficient case it was used to investigating the savings potential for each of the abovementioned conservation measures. By doing so, not only does the paper report on the impacts of the water heating conservation package as a whole, but it also estimates the savings potential of specific conservation measures Despite the fact that simulation and modelling tools are frequently used for building energy analysis, their principles are not always clearly understood. It might, therefore, be beneficial to highlight here the nature of simulation and the basic principles of energy modelling. According to Matko et al. (1992), simulation and modelling are inseparable procedures used to analyse the complex behaviour of real processes. Whilst modelling is the process of producing a model (i.e. a representation of the construction and working of some system of interest), simulation is the operation of that model. It should also be borne in mind that the simulation of a building is by no means an exact science, as there are many subjective judgements needed in terms of what inputs and methods should be incorporated. As vividly put by Neelamkavil (1987): “[modelling] is more than an art, but not a fully developed science. Human judgement, experience and computer programming skill still play an important role in the formulation and solution of problems by this method” (pg. i). Therefore, Heinrich (1998) assures us that there will almost always be controversies about which algorithms and solution techniques should be used to analyse the energy consumption of a building. With regard to building energy simulation, software developers usually handle the modelling of system dynamics which form the basis of the simulation software (i.e. the tool), whilst building designers use this software to build their models and to carry out energy simulation and analysis for the building under consideration. Among the reported drawbacks of simulation is the complex and time-consuming nature of the process (Clarke, 2001; Maria, 1997). Moreover, much of the success of modelling obviously relies on the experience, skill and integrity of the software user. Therefore, proficiency in modelling techniques and skills plays an important role in the quality and adequacy of the results obtained from the simulation models. Hui (2003) further explains that in the past (and still with some recent simulation software), the user interface is the weakest part of any building energy simulation exercise. It is true that the issues associated with user friendliness have been partly addressed with the increasing popularity of the Windows-based graphical user interface. However, there remain plentiful opportunities for an unwary or misinformed user to make significant mistakes when performing the simulation. In this regard, in addition to previous experience and knowledge of energy modelling, the author undertook an intensive course on the energy simulation software used for this research, namely DesignBuilder.



The DesignBuilder software is based on a state-of-the-art building performance simulation software package entitled EnergyPlus. A DesignBuilder simulation is based on ‘real’ hourly weather data, and takes into consideration both solar gain through windows and heat conduction and convection between zones of different temperature (Chowdhury et al., 2008; DesignBuilder Software, 2011). The accuracy of the DesignBuilder software has been validated using the BESTest (Building Energy Simulation TEST) procedure, originally developed by the International Energy Agency. The BESTest is a comparative set of tests regarded by the US Department of Energy and the international community as being a reputable basis for evaluating the capabilities of building energy simulation programs (Radhi, 2010).

3.3 Interviews The results of the fieldwork and energy simulation for the case study (for both the base and efficient cases) were then presented to a number of informed stakeholders who were interviewed in order to both obtain feedback on the results and to discuss the prospects for efficient water heating practices within the residential sector in the UAE. Finally, a set of recommendations – that have potential for making UAE residential buildings more energy efficient – were drawn from the whole research project. The underlying assumption with regard to conducting interviews is that knowledge can be generated through engaging in purposeful conversation with other individuals (Patton, 1990). Generally speaking, interviews can be fully structured, semi-structured or unstructured (Robson, 2002; Thiětart et al., 1999). For the purpose of this research, semi-structured interviews seemed attractive in that they ensure a focused approach yet offer flexibility to modify the questions in order to target new ideas raised by the interviewee. Bearing in mind the diverse backgrounds of the interviewees, the semi-structured approach also seemed beneficial in that questions would be posed to interviewees with different levels of knowledge of the subject, some of whom might seek further explanation and clarification. The criterion for selecting the interviewees was that each person should have an interest in, or knowledge of, the subject of sustainable buildings in the UAE. In other words, a judgmental sampling strategy (i.e. non-representative; nonprobability sampling) was used. According to Saunders et al. (2007), such a strategy is usually recommended for explorative and/or qualitative studies, especially when there are a limited number of people involved in the area being researched. Some forty highly-informed individuals were invited to participate, resulting in twelve semi-structured interviews ultimately being conducted during the months of August and September 2012. Figure 2 shows the background of the twelve interviewees.



Figure 2: Backgrounds of the Interviewees


Case Study

A typical UAE residential building was selected to act as a case study for this research paper. This is a recently-built house located in a relatively new district of Dubai City (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: The Case Study Building and its Urban Context Source: Google Earth (2013)



The selected case study building is a two storey villa (floor plans are demonstrated in Figure 4). The main elevation of the house, which is currently occupied by eleven people, faces the south. The house contains eight toilets, all of which are fitted with electric heaters.



Figure 4: Floor Plans of Case Study Building When considering the energy use of a building, it is important to consider the climatic conditions that affect it. To this end, it should be noted that Dubai City is located on the Arabian Gulf (latitude 25o16’N and longitude 55o18’ E). Dubai has a hot arid, subtropical, climate. Summers in Dubai are extremely hot, humid and dry. However, the weather between December and March remains cool. Further information on temperatures and the rather high solar radiation levels in Dubai are given in Figure 5.



Figure 5: Temperature and Solar Radiation Levels in Dubai (Source: Climate Consultant 5 Software)

5. Results and Analysis 5.1 Base Case Study Original energy use within the case study was analysed using DesignBuilder energy simulation software, based on actual weather data. It also takes into account the building geometry and orientation, building materials, building design and characteristics, climate, indoor environmental conditions, occupant activities and schedules, HVAC and lighting systems, as well as other parameters needed to analyse the building’s energy performance. Such detailed information about the case studies was obtained through site visits and intensive discussions with the occupants and the owner, who oversaw construction of the house himself. DesignBuilder was also used to estimate CO2 consumption within the building. This was calculated in terms of the type and amount of fuel used to generate electricity at building level. In essence, CO2 emissions were calculated by the software by multiplying fuel consumption by a CO2 conversion factor. No recent conversion factors for Dubai seem to be available in the literature. According to DesignBuilder, however, the CO2 conversion factor in the UAE is estimated to be 0.7 kgCO2/kWh. Having carried out the energy simulations on the case study, the annual energy consumption figure was estimated to be 189 MWh. This translates into the building emitting a total of approximately 132 tonnes of CO2 per annum. Bearing in mind that there are eleven occupants living in the house, the electricity consumption per capita figure is calculated to be 17.2 MWh/cap/year. Whilst this case study cannot be regarded as a representative sample of a UAE dwelling, it is interesting to note a somewhat similar figure (i.e. 14.3 MWh/cap/year) has been reported for villa residents in the neighbouring country of Saudi Arabia. There is no doubt that such figures are exceptionally high when compared to other parts of the world with similar climatic conditions (Taleb and Sharples, 2011). In order to further validate the accuracy of the DesignBuilder model that had been developed, the simulation results were compared with readings obtained from actual utility bills. In this regard, Rahman et al. (2008) asserts that model validation is an essential task for the modeller in order to ensure that the architectural, electrical and mechanical systems are



Household Electricity Consumption (MWh)

adequately modelled and integrated, for the purpose of estimating household energy performance. Generally speaking, modelling can be considered as being satisfactory if the difference between measured and simulated ‘monthly’ energy consumption is within 5% on a monthly basis (Rahman et al., 2008). Figure 6 compares the DesignBuilder simulation results and actual utility bills for the period July 2010 – July 2011 (i.e. the beginning of the field work), and demonstrates that the simulation results are in good agreement (in the order of 1-5%) across the year for the building. Hence, it can be concluded that the DesignBuilder model is capable of simulating the actual structural and operational conditions of the base case study building. 25 20 15 10 5 0

Simulation Results

Utility Bills

Figure 6: Calibration of the Simulation Results for the Base Case Study

5.2 Efficient Case Study In June 2011, the case study building underwent the following modifications as part of an efficient water-heater retrofit package: (i) installation of a solar water heater that feeds four toilets in the house; (ii) installation of more efficient electric heaters in the remaining four toilets; (iii) changing the temperature set point for the hot water from 75 to 50oC; (iv) switching off all water heaters during the summer. Consequently, a total annual electricity consumption saving of around 7% has been achieved. This saving has been detected through observing both utility bills and the DesignBuilder simulation software (see Figure 7). More specifically, the household electricity consumption rate has been reduced to 175.6 MWh (which equates to 122.92 tonnes of CO2 emission per annum).


Household Electricity Consumption (MWh)


25 20 15 10 5 0

Simulation Results

Utility Bills

Figure 7: Calibration of the Simulation Results for the Efficient Case Study

Potential Reduction of Electricity Consumption (%)

In order to investigate the contribution of each of the four energy conservation measures to the 7% figure, several runs of the DesignBuilder software were made. The results are shown in Figure 8. Clearly, the installation of a solar thermal water heater has achieved the most savings, which means it has the biggest potential to pay for itself quickly through energy savings. Interestingly, the third and fourth conservation measures do not require any additional upfront costs.


2.7 2.2

2.5 2




1 0.5 0

Solar Water Heater

Efficient Electric Heaters

Thermostat Setback

Off during Summers

Figure 8: Comparing Potential Savings of the Adopted Energy Conservation Measures



6. Future Prospects of Energy Efficient Water Heating Practices in the UAE During the interviews, the results of the simulation and experimentation exercises were discussed and verified by experts on the subject. In addition, a number of factors that have an impact on energy conservation, other than those considered here, were highlighted, e.g. wall and roof insulation, glazing, building and window orientation as well as the lighting and air conditioning systems. Considering the UAE residential sector as a whole, the following section reports on the points of view of the interviewees with regard to the barriers that currently impede transition towards efficient water heating practice in the UAE.

6.1 Barriers Hindering the Move towards Energy Efficient Heating Practices A large number of technical and non-technical barriers emerged in the interviews. Broadly speaking, they can be grouped into five categories: technical, economic, political, social and educational (see Table 2). Most of the identified technical barriers concern the use of solar thermal heaters. The relatively short experience of such heaters in the UAE has resulted in a number of technical hurdles due to improper installation, low quality of products available in the market, bad maintenance and misuse on the part of the consumers. As a consequence, it was frequently mentioned during the interviews that the solar thermal systems fitted in the country tend to have a reduced reliability and lifetime, when they should have performed much better than conventional electrical water heaters. Nonetheless, the findings of the interviews suggest that the non-technical barriers are more varied and significant than technical ones. Approximately 92% of the interviewees stated that the main economic-related barrier is cheap electricity prices, are currently heavily subsidised by the UAE government. Four interviewees emphasised the lack of supportive government-led incentives for sustainable buildings in general, and three argued for the limited focus on water heating aspects in the UAE building codes and regulations. Whilst this point has not been raised by the majority of the interviewees, it still has the potential to constitute a significant political barrier. To illustrate this point further, it is worth mentioning that when asked who has the major role in terms of promoting efficient water heating practices within the residential sector, all of the interviewees emphasised the role of the government and its regulations. However, as vigorously argued by some of the interviewees, even if attaining efficient water heating practices comes high on the political agenda, one would still expect significant socialrelated barriers. To this end, limited awareness with regard to the importance of energy conservation, as well as to the potential benefits of energy conservation, were often claimed to be the main social barriers. The situation is further compounded in the case of solar thermal heaters, which are perceived to have a negative impact of the price of properties that have them installed. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that – as argued by 25% of the interviewees – the subject of energy efficient water heating has not received adequate attention in the local media. Most emphasis in the energy conservation agenda seems to have been placed on the role of rationalising the use of the air conditioning systems, which have the lion’s share of household electricity consumption in the UAE. One of the interviewees went further to argue that whilst local citizens are well informed with regard to the importance of energy conservation, such concerns are not usually shared with the foreign maids that currently serve in almost every UAE house. Since housemaids are usually charged with the running of the house, much of the household energy wastage (e.g. continuous running of air conditioning and water heating systems) can be attributed to their lack of awareness with regard to energy conservation.



Table 2: Barriers Hindering the Move towards Energy Efficient Heating Practices Na Technical Barriers Improper installation/location of solar thermal heaters. Consumer misuse, e.g. carelessness in cleaning dust from solar thermal heaters. Manufacturing flaws of available products such as incorrect material selection. Political Barriers Heavy consumer subsidies on energy prices. Lack of supportive government-led incentives for sustainable buildings in general. Limited emphasis on water heating aspects in current building regulations and codes. Economic Barriers Cheap energy prices. High capital costs of renewable energy and efficient water heating equipment. Lack of sustainability-orientated investors and property developers. Social Barriers Limited awareness with regard to the need for achieving household energy efficiency. Lack of awareness with regard to the potential long-term benefits of energy conservation. Emphasis is usually placed on reducing initial cost, as opposed to enhancing quality or long-term durability aspects, of construction. A belief in the abundance of hydrocarbons, and that energy prices will always remain low. Limited awareness of residential solar thermal heaters, which has led to negative impact on the purchase price of properties. Educational Barriers The role of water heating in achieving energy conservation does not receive adequate attention in formal educational curriculums for architecture. The subject of efficient water heating is not adequately covered in the local media. Lack of professional training opportunities on sustainable building principles in general. Lack of innovation-orientated academic research on energy efficient heating practices. a N is the number of interviewees who identified this barrier

6 4 3 11 4 3 11 8 5 9 7 6 4 3

5 3 3 2

6.2 Potential Enablers to Overcome the Barriers Towards the end of each interview, the respondents were asked to suggest ways to overcome the various barriers that they had identified. Listed in a random order, below is a list of the main recommendations: •

The government needs to implement building regulations, compulsory codes and strict standards to promote efficient water heating practices.



• • • •

The government should remove consumer price subsidies on conventional fossil-based electricity. Consequently, it should encourage the use of energy-efficient household appliances, including water heaters, whose prices should be subsided by the government. In addition, dedicated financial schemes are needed to incentivise investors and property developers to build energy-efficient residential buildings in the country. Sufficient resources should be allocated to stimulate and enhance awareness on issues pertaining to energy conservation among architects, engineers and the general public. The latter category includes domestic help such as housemaids and drivers, who should receive adequate training as part of the requirements set to obtain residency in the country. Moreover, it is further suggested that an awareness programmes for locals needs to make reference to Islamic teachings and principles, which – for example – explicitly encourage thriftiness in water use. It is the responsibility of the house owner to provide his/her tenants with a user guide, which covers information relevant to the operation and environmental performance of the house. This manual could also enable occupants to understand and operate their house efficiently including instructions with regard to the optimal temperature set points for the water heaters. In addition, there is a need to make use of technological solutions in order to change behavioural patterns. For example, energy and water meters should be installed in houses in order to provide real-time information to residents on their usage levels, allowing them to make personal adjustments in order to save energy and money. More focus should be placed, in the media and educational curricula, on the role of water heaters to achieve energy saving conservation in buildings. New custom policies and laws need to be developed in favour of solar industry and commerce. There is a need to develop a trained workforce that is able to produce, install and maintain solar heaters. There is a need to establish a quality control system based on energy labelling in order to deter consumers from going for the cheapest household product that does the job.

7. Concluding Remarks This paper has investigated the prospects for enhancing energy-efficient water heating in the residential buildings of the UAE. As a part of this work, an in-depth examination was carried out on a typical UAE house in order to estimate electricity saved by the efficient water-heater retrofit package as a whole, in addition to the savings attributable to each of the four individual measures (i.e. installing a solar water heater, energy-efficient electric heaters, lowering the temperature set point for the domestic hot water to 50oC and switching off water heaters during the summer season during which water gets naturally heated). The overall saving on annual electricity consumption was estimated to be approximately 7% for the whole package, and for the individual measures to be around 2.7, 2.2, 1.2 and 0.9%, respectively. Besides the potentially huge direct savings, the research has revealed numerous social and environmental benefits that are not sufficiently realised to date. For instance, potential gains would go beyond reducing electricity bills for the customer and will include a reduction in the country’s CO2 emission rates and the saving of national resources in avoiding new power plant costs. Moreover, the paper has revealed the existence of a wide range of barriers, technical and otherwise, that are currently hindering moves towards energy efficient heating practices in the UAE. Technical hurdles – mostly associated with improper installation, manufacturing quality, operation and maintenance of solar heaters – have contributed to forming a negative perception about their reliability in the UAE. This has been compounded by a relatively limited awareness level with regard to the role of water heating in achieving household energy conservation, as



most of the sustainability awareness campaigns seem to have focused on rationalising the use of air conditioning systems (i.e. the biggest consumers of household electricity). Potential ways forward include enhancing national awareness on aspects pertaining to efficient water heating practices, including the use of solar heaters, among the various segments of the UAE public. This needs to be accompanied by the provision of financial incentives and a regulatory framework that facilitates the promotion of energy efficiency through water heating practices. Last, but certainly not least, there is an urgent need to implement a quality control system based on energy labelling in the UAE.



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ABOUT THE AUTHORS Dr. Hanan Taleb: Atkins Assistant Professor, MSc Sustainable Design of Built Environment Programme, British University in Dubai, Dubai, UAE Dr. Yasser Al-Saleh: Senior Research Fellow, Innovation and Policy Initiative, INSEAD, Abu Dhabi, UAE


The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability is one of four thematically focused journals in the collection of journals that support the Sustainability knowledge community—its journals, book series, conference, and online community. The journal focuses on sustainable ecosystems, urban environments, agriculture, energy systems, water use, atmospheric quality, and biodiversity. In addition to traditional scholarly papers, this journal invites presentations of sustainability practices— including documentation of case studies and exegeses analyzing the effects of these practices. The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

ISSN 2325-1077