Tabreed to explore more geothermal ambitions in UAE

Environmental risk

Tabreed, officially the National Central Cooling Company, in partnership with Adnoc, is actively investigating additional geothermal energy initiatives in response to the escalating cooling demands in the UAE.

Both Tabreed and the Abu Dhabi-based energy company recently announced the Gulf region’s first geothermal energy project, which is anticipated to fulfil 10% of the cooling demands of Masdar City.

“We will continue exploring the geothermal potential in all [of the] Abu Dhabi and Al Ain area to further deploy this technology,” Antonio Di Cecca, Tabreed’s chief operating officer, told The National in an interview.

At the Masdar City project, hot water generated by the heat from the wells will pass through an absorption cooling system to produce chilled water, which will then be supplied to Tabreed’s district cooling network at the sustainable research and development hub.

“This is a physical plant that will be coupled with the existing district cooling network in Masdar City. We will be able to commission the plant before Cop28 … we are on track and we have already started the construction,” Mr Di Cecca said.

Geothermal energy harnesses the heat generated within the Earth’s core to provide a constant energy source, unlike solar or wind, which are intermittent in nature. Geothermal energy plants also have high-capacity factors, meaning they can run at maximum power for longer periods. The use of air conditioners and electric fans accounts for about a fifth of the total electricity in buildings around the world, or 10 per cent of all global electricity consumption, according to the International Energy Agency.

Energy demand for space cooling is expected to more than triple by 2050, the agency has said.

In the UAE, cooling makes up for more than 50 per cent of the electricity consumption in buildings, which can increase to 70 per cent during peak times, Mr Di Cecca said.

“Growth in population [and] access to better lifestyle will increase the air conditioning demand, so there is a need for policymakers and for governments to take important decisions on how to tackle [this],” he said.

“There are many different solutions starting from demand management [and] increasing the efficiency of the equipment.”

District cooling, which consists of a pipe network filled with water that is chilled by cooling plants, will play a major role as it helps in aggregating demand, Mr Di Cecca said.

Tabreed, one of the largest utility companies in the Middle East, has been rapidly expanding its operations across the region.

Last year, the company listed out its green financing framework to attract green equity funds to invest in its business.

“Our intention is to explore the market and see whether there are good opportunities and eventually use this framework,” Mr Di Cecca said.

The demand for green and sustainable bonds and sukuk is booming, particularly within the GCC economies. This trend is driven by the concerted efforts of governments in this oil-rich economic bloc to fulfil their net-zero commitments.

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