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Sat 14 Apr 2007 05:29 PM

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Projects face delays in power connection

Completed buildings left to run on temporary generators as DEWA is "stretched in Dubai".

New developments are facing serious delays in being connected to the electricity grid as Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) attempts to keep up with the growing demand on its power generation and distribution capacity.

According to Derek Shepherd, managing director, Aggreko International, in many cases, completed buildings are not connected to the grid for months, and have been forced to rely on temporary power generators.

"There are so many projects going on that DEWA is, at times, unable to commission new buildings for six to eight months," he said. "DEWA is stretched in Dubai. It is being asked to do everything at once and it can't."

Despite DEWA's announcement in March that it was going to invest US $13.6 billion (AED50 billion) in boosting its power generating capacity by 2010, the current problem lies mainly with the distribution of electricity.

"DEWA has got the generation and the power plants, and it invests well in power stations," added Shepherd.

"But physically, cables and power lines need to be connected, and because of all the construction activity, DEWA can't get to the locations quick enough to supply the connection on time. And developers are in so much of a rush that they want to open buildings straight away."

As well as supplying temporary power generators to projects under construction, Aggreko is frequently called upon to power buildings long after completion, according to Shepherd. One such example is Arabian Ranches.

"Four or five of our generators can be found at the main gate. This is probably because DEWA hasn't been able to get the cables or the transformers to actually power the gatehouse or clubhouse yet."

But according to Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO, DEWA, the connection is sometimes held up by contractor delays on projects.

"Developers have to give us a guarantee that they will finish on time. We are coping and we presently have around 5,000MW under construction."

Many developers are tackling the problem by building their own substations to take pressure away from DEWA. One such example is the City of Arabia project in Dubailand.

"Given the pace of development, to expect DEWA to build all of these substations is unrealistic," said Anwer Sher, project director, City of Arabia.

"It's not that the government can't or doesn't want to do it, it's just that the sheer magnitude of the task at hand has caused delays.

"Also, it's not as though all of the substations in Dubai are being built in one place. They are spread all over. So to expect the government to do each and every one of them, I think is unfair from the developer's point of view," he added.

Another constraint is labour resources, according to Sher.

"There aren't enough people to supervise and build so many substations in this time frame."

Sher added that, in time, a framework could be developed whereby most of the infrastructure work is done by the developer.

"This is a very normal thing in the UK and the US. It considers how the whole area will get infrastructure, such as roads, electricity, sewerage and water. In some cases, developers announce completion dates without really talking about when the infrastructure will be ready."

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