How important is energy efficiency for cooling facilities in a country like Qatar?
Energy efficiency needs to be a priority for many reasons. Electricity is not free, and the country needs to produce it. Qatar uses natural gas, so the more efficient Qatar is in utilizing this asset, the better the country will be. Qatar Cool plays a key role in bringing energy-efficient solutions for district cooling in Qatar. The savings that district cooling can bring from CAPEX to OPEX on the lifecycle of a project are considerable. Most importantly, energy efficiency is crucial for environmental sustainability. We actively drive this by our involvement with specific authorities and within the government. We try to push forward an agenda of district cooling and zoning. We have showed policymakers the benefit of having specific policy agendas for a more sustainable environment. We also participate in conferences and write-ups, advocating energy efficiency, sustainability, and the environment. Qatar Cool has an MoU with Tarsheed that will push for further electricity and water conservation. One of our main partners in Qatar is the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) , which has helped us in our research and development agenda to increase usage of sustainable sources, such as recycled water as opposed to fresh water.
How do you maintain a high level of consumer satisfaction?
A customer-centric focus is not only a priority for us, but rather a value. It is ingrained in the way we do things. The customer always comes first. As a result of our customer focus committee, we cover all areas related to customer services, from complaints to experience and touch points, allowing customers to interact easily with the company. We work consistently to identify the root causes of the complaints so that broader actions can be started.
How do you raise awareness of your CSR initiatives?
We are heavily involved in water conservation efforts and workshops around the country. There is a range of events that happen annually that we are involved in. Our main focus is young people. We try to build understanding and respect for the environment at an early age so that this becomes part of their values. In this regard, we also organize many activities with children to interact with the environment and learn by playing and having fun.
How will your fourth new cooling plant increase your capacity?
It will suffice the increase in demand we are witnessing in West Bay and also create capacity for the city infrastructures being built by Qatar Rail. There are certain buildings under construction that will be hooked up to our grid. The new plant will create a substantial capacity of 35,000 Tons of refrigeration with a thermal energy storage of 25,000 Ton hours. We plan to add more plants and have an expansion agenda that goes beyond Qatar. The country is going through consolidation; we are looking at growth through acquisitions within Qatar. Abroad, we have a specific framework we are working on that looks at the macro and micro elements in the countries we are eying.
What potential do you see in the international market?
Based on our research, district energy is on the rise. We are the fifth-largest company in district cooling internationally. UN-Energy advocates district cooling, giving its overall savings for the country itself. After several years, the savings could be as high as QAR15 billion (USD4.12 billion), a large part of which is OPEX. Governments should consider district cooling as part of their urban planning by reclassifying district energy as a utility. It is important to work out cost recovery models because what makes district cooling costly is the infrastructure and capital costs required to build it. If the government lays down the pipelines and then has providers to offer the product, it would lead to substantial savings for consumers, therefore increasing the acceptance of district cooling. Another element is zoning and asset allocation, if a company knew ahead of time that a certain zone is approved for district cooling, it could better plan on its loads. Currently, many people cannot invest early because they do not know what a zone will look like. Internationally, there needs to be more organizations and people advocating this, which is what we are doing at sectorial and urban planning.
What are your main goals for 2019?
For us, the market in Qatar has plateaued. We are now looking for opportunities to consolidate our business. There are districts in Qatar that are growing, and we will build plants to increase our capacity. For example, The Pearl Qatar is growing, and we need to grow with it to cater to the increasing population. In order to grow our business in 2019, we will follow both organic and inorganic strategies. We have subsidiaries that do water treatment and air balancing, and we are trying to grow these in these areas. There are elements of strategic international partnering that we are considering at the moment. We also want to expand beyond commercial real estate to the industrial sector, such as oil and gas, to bring in our cooling solutions. All these will take place while we put our international business agenda forward.