It’s obvious - reduce energy consumption and you’ll reduce your costs. Take it from renewable sources and there will be more of it for longer. Yet sometimes we need to be reminded. There are plenty of people around to lecture each and every one of us on what to do to ‘save the planet’, but that sounds like a huge task and one that surely it too big for us to be involved in. It is often only when it comes down to simple black and white economics that we sit up and take notice.
This is where Ziad Al-Duaij and Integrated Energy Group (IEG) come in. In a sense they’ve removed the sentiment from the environment and sustainability movement and put it in hard -nosed business terms. As we opened this piece - reduce consumption and reduce costs. It’s probably the missing-mantra from the green movement’s vocal armoury.
IEG was established in Lebanon - a country where the urgent need for energy resource management is higher than in the Gulf. “Electricity in Lebanon is typically expensive and unreliable” explains Ziad. Two ideal ingredients required in order to get a consumer’s attention.
“The situation in Lebanon is so severe that it has become an obstacle to doing business, and today in Kuwait we’re witnessing rolling-blackouts - this is embarrassing and, if energy were managed efficiently would not be necessary”, he says.
“At the moment energy in Kuwait is too cheap. This encourages waste”, and Ziad makes the point that “this puts pressure on the electricity generators to produce energy that really wasn’t needed in the first place”.
If we all took only the power we need, there would be additional capacity in the grid, but as he says “because this energy is so cheap there’s little incentive to become more efficient”.
To become an issue here the cost of power needs to go up to the degree that savings would become tangible and would show on a company’s bottom line.
“We need to see a lead taken from the top in regard to this”, he feels, “energy efficiency must become a key policy within Kuwait”.
Nonetheless, there is developing interest for the services of IEG in Kuwait.
“Certainly there are sceptics who say they’ve no need for review their energy policies - they use the cost example to back up their reasoning and it’s still difficult to argue with them on that”, Ziad says, “but also, refreshingly, there are some forward thinking and progressive people who do consider the environmental impact they and their businesses have on Kuwait”.
There are a growing number of businesses who do want to be amongst the first to adopt efficient energy use.
At this stage Ziad is working with companies and reviewing existing buildings. Without exception each of these was designed and built without any consideration towards energy consumption. And there are great efficiencies to be had.
“We can quantify savings on typical buildings of up to 40%”, he says. Significant by any measure.
Many of these gains can be implemented with minimal effort. “There’s nothing structural that companies need to do. The simplest changes are made by looking at lighting used. Even the installation of solar panels which can perhaps also ultimately be linked to feed back in to the grid can be achieved with ease”. And with great benefit too. Surely solar power is the energy source of the future?
“It’s just one of them”, he says. A surprising response given the extremes of sunshine we have through the region.
I discover that in some respects this may not in fact be the ideal place for solar panels - Ziad cites the issue of excessive dust as being one factor that may hold back their widespread use on a vast scale.
“Also, solar doesn’t save that much in terms of money - its prime strength is that it is a non-polluting and endlessly sustainable source of energy”.
Perhaps the issue here is not about completely substituting the burning of fossil fuels with renewable and sustainable sources. Ziad agrees.
“Even in regions that have largely embraced solar panels as a source of energy have not been able to rely on them exclusively, but instead have found that they provide an excellent complement to existing supplies”.
IEG’s approach to any new client is to undertake a full energy-diagnostics analysis. They study all forms of energy consumption by examining how the building is functioning and where the energy flows are coming from. Lighting, air-conditioning, refrigeration, escalators and lifts.
Ziad says, “You’d be shocked at the amount of wastage there is”.
It makes no sense to keep escalators running throughout the day - sensors cost a tiny amount to install and give a saving way exceeding this. Regular lift servicing is recommended - a smooth-running elevator costs less to power.
The ideal time to talk to a company such as IEG is at the design stage. Whilst significant energy savings can easily be made on existing buildings, ultimately it makes more sense to build such features in rather than retro-fit them after.
Ziad is, naturally, optimistic for the future of environmental and sustainability issues in Kuwait. Whilst he would wish for the government to take the lead, he accepts that (in the short term at least) this may not be the case.
In the meantime he and IEG, together with a small number of specialised energy consultants in the region, will be the ones to point out to us what we should be seeing for ourselves: Reduce energy consumption, and you’ll reduce your costs.
You can find out more about Integrated Energy Group at www.i-e-g.net
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #35 October 2010