Cooling & Ventillation

One of Tabreed’s 49 plants in the UAE.

One of Tabreed’s 49 plants in the UAE.

Tabreed champions district cooling

SUJIT PARHAR, the CEO of Tabreed, a regional pioneer in district cooling, elaborates on the qualitative and economic advantages of adopting this efficient method of cooling and highlights his company’s role in keeping the UAE cool.

July 2011

DISTRICT cooling – a modern and efficient method of large-scale, high-density cooling for everything from homes to offices to military installations and metros – is the route the GCC should be taking in a bid to ensure energy and cost efficiency in the region.

Just 12 years since its introduction in the region, there are more than 3.5 million tonnes of refrigeration (TR) of installed district cooling capacity in the GCC.  This reflects the strong economic growth in the region over the last decade as governments reinvested hydro-carbon surpluses into the diversification of their economies to create jobs for their young and growing populations.  Some $1.8 trillion of infrastructure projects are slated in the region and economic growth is forecast to expand further. This growth in economic activity has led to a rise in the demand for cooling – in malls, schools, mixed-use commercial and residential developments, transport and military infrastructure.

Given that between 50 and 70 per cent of peak electricity demand in some of the GCC countries is typically used for cooling, this has had a major impact on energy consumption in the region.


Energy generation is a key concern for governments. Not only are sovereign supplies of gas – the primary feedstock for regional electricity generation – limited, but also many governments subsidise the tariffs being charged to industry and consumers for energy consumption. In short, while on the one hand, modern large-scale developments require significant amounts of cooling, on the other, governments are looking for ways to reduce energy consumption.

This is where district cooling can play a pivotal role.

District cooling is the natural choice for high-density, large-scale cooling because its economies of scale generate significant energy savings.  For instance, district cooling consumes less than half the electricity per ton-hour of cooling compared to traditional air-conditioners. This, in turn, reduces peak pressure on the electricity grid – a big bonus for energy providers.

District cooling’s more efficient use of energy means that it generates significant cost benefits because less energy required means less cost.  And less cost means that developers can typically save up to 10 per cent compared to traditional chillers. Less energy consumed also implies that governments spend less on subsidies and preserve their sovereign gas supplies for longer – a benefit for countries throughout the region.

Reduced energy consumption has the additional benefit of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emission and contributing to improved air quality.  If district cooling is used to its full potential in Abu Dhabi over the next 20 years, increasing its usage by up to 10 times, it could create Dh11.3 billion ($3.08 billion) in energy savings and environmental benefit.  And it could save up to 1.3 GW in avoided energy consumption – the equivalent of building one less power station in the emirate.

District cooling is not only an energy-efficient, cost-efficient and environment-friendlier way of cooling than traditional chillers; it can also improve the aesthetics of regional urban development by negating the need for bulky, roof-top chillers on buildings.  This, in turn, reduces the amount of noise pollution created by whirring roof-fans – a benefit for everyone who cares about how their city looks and sounds.

Tabreed, an Abu Dhabi-based utility company that provides year-round climate control to communities across the Middle East, has been pioneering district cooling since 1998 and keeps cool some of the best known projects in the region.  It has a current installed capacity of 541,525 TR in the UAE, which is generated from 49 plants located to serve a range of communities including the UAE Armed Forces installations, the Red Line of the Dubai Metro and prestigious developments by Abu Dhabi-based real estate developers Aldar and Sorouh.

In August, Tabreed will finalise work on the Green Line, supporting the opening of the Dubai’s second Metro line.  The 22.5-km Green Line will be fed by eight of Tabreed’s district cooling plants, which will cool all 18 stations located on Dubai’s famous Creek.

Whether helping passengers navigate Dubai by metro, providing cooling comfort to workers and shoppers to make the most of their day in the summer, or supporting Abu Dhabi realise its 2030 Economic Vision, district cooling plays a vital role.  It is recognised as a strategic utility that increasingly provides the backbone for the region’s modern infrastructure and economic growth – it is the smart choice for efficient cooling.

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