Business Interview: Yasser Salah Al Jaidah, CEO, Qatar Cool
In an exclusive conversation with The Edge, Yasser Salah Al Jaidah, CEO of Qatar Cool, outlines the business case for district cooling and explains why it should be the technology of choice across Qatar.
Yasser Salah Al Jaidah, CEO of Qatar Cool, has spent much of his professional career outside the country, serving in various roles and accumulating over a decade of energy experience. Al Jaidah has held positions throughout the energy field – from maintenance, operations engineering and project management to marketing and venture projects – on four continents in countries such as Qatar, Japan, France, Norway, the United States, Italy, Singapore and the United Kingdom (UK).
Immediately preceding his present stint, Al Jaidah was the general manager and director of South Hook LNG in the UK, the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal of Western Europe and presently the provider of 20 percent of the UK’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) consumption.
Commenting on his career before joining Qatar Cool, Al Jaidah tells The Edge, “I established the first liaison office for RasGas in South Korea and have also held a position of Inlet Facilities Project Lead for the RasGas expansion phase two project and was seconded to ExxonMobil as a project execution engineer in Houston, Texas.”
Explaining why he chose to return to Qatar, Al Jaidah mentions that as a Qatari citizen, he feels a sense of responsibility in helping the country utilise his worldwide experience in its journey to realise the goals laid out in the Qatar National Vision 2030.
In Al Jaidah’s opinion, Qatar Cool has a significant role to play in the context of Qatar’s growing population and economy. Elaborating on the role that Qatar Cool is likely to play, Al Jaidah says, “With growth of Qatar’s economy, its need for reliable and efficient energy distribution will also increase. District cooling is therefore one of the key technologies for Qatar’s future, and a central pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030.”
How does Al Jaidah assess the achievements of Qatar Cool since it was set up?
Al Jaidah mentions that Qatar Cool has witnessed significant growth over the past 10 years. The company now has three operational plants, two in the West Bay area and one on The Pearl-Qatar. A fourth plant, situated in the West Bay area, will be opened in 2016 to meet the growing demand for district cooling. He adds, “At the same time, we are working with many major developments in the country to establish a district cooling system in their projects.”
“The company,” Al Jaidah says, “has been recognised for our innovative practices by the International District Energy Association (IDEA), and the System of the Year award for both our districts, from IDEA. This is the highest honour to receive from such a prominent association.”
Qatar Cool has also received the International Safety Award by The British Safety Council, the Industrial Building Conservation Award from Tarsheed Kahramaa and the best District Cooling Provider at the Climate Control Middle East award ceremony, among others.
Talking about technology that Qatar Cool uses and how it achieves its objective of cooling without exploiting the environment, Al Jaidah mentions, “District cooling has minimal environmental impact and energy consumption compared to conventional cooling systems.”
Al Jaidah adds that district cooling plants are operated more efficiently with less harm to the environment by eliminating factors such as noise pollution and “allows us to economise on natural resources”.
Speaking about the technological preparedness of Qatar with respect to district cooling, Al Jaidah says, “Local authorities in Qatar have developed a conservation plan with all major district cooling companies in the country, which have access to readily available Treated Sewage Effluent (TSE) to make the switch from potable water to TSE.”
With respect to TSE and where Qatar Cool fits in, Al Jaidah says, “We are in the process of making the switch in our West Bay plants. TSE in the Middle East and other Gulf countries is a resource that is under exploited, with 40 percent to 60 percent discarded to the sea unutilised.”
Citing Qatar Cool’s contribution to the environment, Al Jaidah tells The Edge, “We have prevented the emission of around 490 million kilograms of CO2 from the atmosphere since 2010. This is equivalent to removing over 93 thousand vehicles from the roads or planting 13 million mature trees.”
District cooling is a sustainable solution, and is a viable business model, especially in a country such as Qatar which witnesses extreme heat for around eight months of the year.
Al Jaidah places the business context of district cooling in a wider picture by saying, “The country is seeing growth in its population, which currently sits at a little over two million, which has led to expansion of its commercial and industrial markets.” This growth, adds Al Jaidah, although contributing to the development of the country, has also led to an increase in the demand for water, power and cooling.
Due to its energy efficiency, reduction in carbon emissions, and environmental benefits, the continued implementation of district cooling systems in Qatar will play an influential role in the country’s vision towards a greener future, through efficient and sustainable energy, Al Jaidah tells The Edge.
Commenting on the cost implications of cooling skyscrapers on The Pearl-Qatar and how that cost is charged to the customers, Al Jaidah mentions that district cooling has substantial benefits for the developer/customer and these benefits are not restricted to cost alone, but relate to enhanced aesthetics and more flexibility in the building design.
District cooling is 40 to 60 percent more energy efficient than conventional systems, says Al Jaidah, adding “it has substantially lower operating costs, and higher operating reliability and availability. District cooling reduces construction cost – air conditioning systems typically constitute up to 10 percent of overall building costs – by outsourcing air-conditioning requirements developers are able to reduce their overall building cost”.
District cooling also reduces maintenance costs of air-conditioning systems, especially in large buildings which require regular professional maintenance, informs Al Jaidah, adding, “District cooling increases revenue-generating potential. Air-conditioning systems are usually installed on the roof or in individual offices/apartments. By utilising district cooling, these air-conditioning units are no longer required.”
In the longer term, district cooling also provides financial gain, since electricity is a subsidised commodity, and the impact on its demand is an impact on national resources. “Also reducing the demand of natural gas for power generation, in line with the National Gas Conservation Strategy, is beneficial to the developer and customer,” comments Al Jaidah.
Talking about Qatar Cool’s expansion plans beyond The Pearl-Qatar and West Bay, Al Jaidah tells The Edge that the company works closely with the district cooling regulators in Qatar to ensure that “we continue to be knowledgeable of any regulatory changes in the market in order to ensure that our expansion plans are not delayed. I believe the government can do a lot in regulations to encourage or even impose a long-awaited measure that covers the country as a whole, given the numerous advantages that district cooling offers over conventional cooling.”
At present, adds Al Jaidah, district cooling systems appear viable only in high density areas, due to the high electricity rates in the current market structure, making it difficult for district cooling to capitalise and benefit on the existing low power prices.
Al Jaidah suggests, “The government can help by regulating the water and electricity tariffs for district cooling providers, making the industry more competitive.” Commenting about the corporate plans of Qatar Cool in the next three years, Al Jaidah stresses the importance of thinking wisely about establishing new district cooling plants, adding “as we foresee some changes in market dynamics, we still believe that decisions regarding new plants will depend on different variables such as geographical location, economic feasibility and population density.”
Qatar Cool, he says, is optimistic about the future of the industry and looks forward to seeing district cooling as the cooling technology of choice in the State of Qatar, building on the sustainable development pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030.
Pegging his role in the corporate plans, Al Jaidah mentions, “I am committed to continue and build on Qatar Cool’s success by empowering the Qatar Cool team to reach its full potential as we enter the next stage of growth, which must go hand in hand with the expansion of Qatar’s infrastructure.”