Owners Associations (OA) across Dubai have been under a lot of pressure of late to save on energy costs associated with running a building. BTU meters appear to solve at least part of the problem but their usage has created mixed feelings throughout the industry. More than 50% of a building’s running costs goes towards energy consumption, so in an effort to curb usage the trend has been to create a user pays system. It is estimated that if users have to pay for their own usage then they will go to greater efforts to reduce their consumption, but this requires careful monitoring of each unit.
A BTU meter installation allows the OA to monitor the chilled water consumption of single units and charge them for what they use. Without a BTU unit the onus is on the owner to cover all of the cost. Of course the amount of savings needs to be compared against the overall cost of installation, monitoring, billing, maintenance, and repair.
Throughout Dubai there are currently five chilled water systems being used in various developments. Owners should consider each before considering the best option to suit their building arrangements:
1. The owner supplies the chilled water via their own chiller. Sub meters are installed and the OA conducts their own billing.
2. A district cooling company (DCC) supplies the chilled water and the DCC then bills the entire development as a single entity. The OA is responsible for sub metering and recovers costs from tenants.
3. A DCC supplies chilled water similar to number 2 but bills each private unit directly. The Owner’s Association is then responsible for costs incurred by common areas.
4. The chilled water is supplied by the DCC but no sub meters are installed and the entire cost is covered by one service charge.
5. There are no sub meters and the building is supplied by owner’s chiller, with the entire cost covered by a single services charge.
Each situation will need to be considered on its own merits as in many cases the costs may outweigh the savings benefits. Buildings will also need to be examined and approved in order to determine if they are physically capable of having such a system installed. Also, the suppliers Empower, Emicool, Palm District Cooling and Tabreed each have their own individual requirements which will need to be met.
The question still remains as to whether a user pays system actually reduces energy consumption or merely transfers costs to another party. Recent individual BTU meter installations indicate that there are saving to be made. Whatever the answer an OA can still save on energy by optimizing their chilled water pumps, installing programmable thermostats in common areas, and ensuring all HVAC equipment is running at peak efficiency.