Companies across the UAE are holding back from going green despite huge savings potential because of outdated perceptions that energy-saving technology is too expensive.
A report from the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with the World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF), said businesses cite expensive implementation as the main reason to shy away from energy and water efficiency methods.
“One of the things we found through this survey is that there may be a perception that the technology is [costly],” said Tanzeed Alam, the climate and energy director of EWS-WWF.
The organisation asked 363 non-governmental companies from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah about what they saw as barriers to implementing energy efficiency techniques. About 72 per cent of the respondents were small and medium enterprises, with annual sales of less than Dh100 million.
Mr Alam said that when it came to these smaller companies retrofitting buildings with, for example, a new air conditioner that requires less electricity to operate, they needed a larger pool of upfront capital but it may not be readily available. “So certainly, given that the majority of respondents were SMEs, it’s important to have tailored solutions,” he said.
However, becoming more energy efficient – or cutting how much electricity is used – is saving companies globally US$310 billion a year, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).
A limited understanding of the potential cost savings from such technologies as LED lights may also be holding investment back, said the head of GE Lighting for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Agostino Renna.
Traditional lamps have an average lifespan of 1,000 to 1,500 hours, but LEDs last anywhere from 33 to 40 times that long. “What’s happening from a customer perspective is that they no longer view [bulbs] as a commodity, but rather a strategic asset that will be with their business for [more than a decade],” he said.
Mr Renna said the other advantage to switching to LEDs was that they use less electricity to power the lamps, resulting in savings on an energy bill of between 40 and 65 per cent.
Mr Alam pointed out that the country’s energy efficiency market was at a nascent stage. “One of the factors may be that the market is relatively immature in terms of information that’s out there on where [business owners] can go to buy these efficient technologies,” he said.
Other challenges noted in the report were the low availability of efficient products, a lack of market accessibility and little understanding of electricity and water subsidies.
Mr Alam said he would like to see companies employ chief carbon officers to drive savings. “And there are some who are beginning to do this, but there are many who aren’t,” he said. “Some of the companies may just lack the capital resources to invest in retrofitting their business.”