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Complexities of saving energy in Qatar

Panel: 1. Foundations of future energy policy

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Alan Meier, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA
Mohamed Darwish, Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, Qatar Foundation, Qatar
Sinan Sabeeh, Texas A & M University, USA


Qatar presents unusual energy conservation challenges, some of which will appear elsewhere as the effects of climate change and environmental degradation increase. Qatar is endowed with huge reserves of natural gas but no fresh water. All of the fresh water is obtained through energy-intensive desalination processes—which may be responsible for as much as 40% of total gas use--resulting in many links between the supply and consumption of energy and water. Conserving water translates directly into saving energy. About 80% of the electricity in Qatari buildings is used to provide air conditioning; this is the highest fraction in any country in the world. The high rate of infrastructure construction temporarily distorts energy consumption patterns.

Energy efficiency policies and measures are at an early stage in Qatar. Traditional strategies and targeted end uses from Europe and North America are not appropriate. Conventional tariff-based strategies to discourage wasteful use of energy and water will be less successful in Qatar because Qatari citizens are extremely wealthy and are entitled to free electricity, water, and natural gas. A few programs have been begun, targeting both electricity and water waste. A voluntary program to benchmark commercial buildings is also under development. Qatar is trying to reduce water distribution losses from above 20% to 10% and to increase water recycling.

The especially strong links between energy and water use in Qatar may become common in other parts of the world with scarce water, notably Southern California, Western Australia, and the Middle East. Thus, Qatar’s experiences in conserving energy and water will be broadly applicable.


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