Going Green: Is Dubai set to become the world’s first ‘smart’ city?

Oct 27, 2013

In John Vidal’s recent article for The Guardian, “Is the Dubai desert about to go green?” he notes that Dubai is changing and the government is planning a cultural shift towards sustainability. And, although known for its excesses – an indoor ski-resort, manmade islands and the world’s tallest building to name just a few – a recent report that was issued regarding the state of energy on Wednesday charts a new direction for the young city.

Vidal also mentions that, over the next 15 years, the emirate’s goal is to cut its energy and water demand by 30%, retrofit 30,000 buildings to make them more energy-efficient, change over a quarter of the government’s fleet of cars to compressed gas and maintain many buildings’ thermostats at a modest 24C. Meanwhile, there will also be substantial cuts to power subsidies and incentives for using solar heating and electricity.

In addition, the Guardian article mentions that, on Tuesday Dubai’sruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum switched on phase one of a solar power plant located just 50 km from the city, constructed as part of Dubai’s bid to host the 2020 World Expo. As Graeme Sims, British regulator of the water and electricity authority says: “The physical potential of solar energy in Dubai is enormous. It’s possible it could provide more than twice Dubai’s current electricity consumption.” The energy report also states that by 2030 Dubai will have cut carbon emissions by 29%, switched 30% of its $100bn-a-year economy to renewable energy, ‘clean coal’ and nuclear, and initiated a slew of energy and water saving plans.

Vidal also cites Ivano Iannelli, a former Italian diplomat who directs the Dubai carbon center of excellence, and helped collate Dubai’s green master plan as saying that Dubai ‘grew up’ecologically in 2008 when the recession hit and the property market crashed. The crash, says Iannelli, gave the Dubai government the chance to rethink its direction: “Success is no longer recognized in short-term strategies, but the long-term. Now we have a road map for the next 20 years.”

In the same article, Waleed Salman, a member of the Dubai supreme council of energy, raises the possibility that, in the future, Dubai could become the world’s first “smart” city, where all energy use can bemonitored and controlled. “We have everything in place in terms of infrastructure. But we do not jump into the water without knowing how to swim.”

recent news