From a stint on a ship to being at the helm at Emicool, Adib Moubadder has sailed the waters – the saline and the chilled variety – smoothly. As a committed advocate of district cooling, his vision is to reduce carbon emissions and deliver chilled water at the lowest kW/TR to the region and beyond.
I am 39 years old. I studied in Lebanon. I did my entire schooling – from KG1 to high school – at the American School in Saidon (now known as Saida), about 40 kilometres away from Beirut. I consider it one of the best schools. It was established in 1881.
After school, I wanted to study mechanical engineering at the American University of Beirut, but the atmosphere was not conducive due to wars in my country. So, I had to go to Alexandria to attend the Arab Academy for Science and Technology. In 1990, when I joined, it was a maritime academy. I was admitted to the Marine Mechanical Engineering College at the academy.
HOW I BECAME WHAT I BECAME
I studied at the Arab Academy from 1990 to 1995 and graduated with a Bachelor of Marine Mechanical Engineering degree. I was first in my batch. Representatives from the Abu Dhabi National Tanker Company (ADNATCO) attended the graduation ceremony. They straight away offered me a job! By the way, ADNATCO is a wholly owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
I joined ADNATCO as a Trainee Engineer, and went on to progressively reach the position of the Third Engineer, then the Second Engineer and, for a short period, the Chief Engineer. I was with ADNATCO from 1995 to 1999.
After that, I chose to change my career path and enter the field of mechanical engineering. I applied for a job at the Emirates Towers Hotel, which was the third tallest building in the world at the time. We were the opening team for the Emirates Towers Hotel. I joined as the Assistant Chief Engineer and, then, became the Chief Engineer. I was with the hotel from 2000 to 2002.
And then I was elected by the Facilities Management (FM) Committee at the Jumeirah Group, which owns and operates Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Burj Al Arab, Emirates Towers Hotel, Wild Wadi and labour accommodation. I was the Facilities Manager for these entities. After a year, I became Senior Facilities Manager for the entire group. All the chief engineers of each of the facilities reported to me.
While at the Jumeirah Group, I was in the design committee involved in the design of Madinat Jumeirah – an experience that would serve me well later.
It was while here that I gained experience in running and improving the output of a chilled water plant. The chilled water network was old. The responsibility involved a very tight timeframe. It was crucial to eliminate temporary shutdowns and to plan for redundancy, considering that these facilities attracted very prestigious guests.
I learnt a lot and gained experience in networks and chilled water systems. I learnt how to be patient, how to have customer focus at all times, how to find engineering solutions and how to be innovative. My stint on a ship, with my education in marine mechanical engineering, came in handy. On a ship, you need to solve problems, and quickly, at that!
While at Jumeirah Group, I realised that there was going to be a boom in the real estate market for the next 10 to 15 years. I was appointed Corporate Facilities Director for Union Properties, and then, GM (Facilities). I was responsible for the design and running of the facilities (FM).
At the time, no one quite understood what Facilities Management meant. We developed the projects for a 20-year lifecycle. One example of a project is Motor City. I was involved in it from the design phase. My earlier experience in this area stood me in good stead. Thanks to my involvement in the two projects – Madinat Jumeirah and Motor City – I have wide experience in the design of infrastructure.
Owing to the trust that people in the board of Dubai Investments and Union Properties had in me (Dubai Investments and Union Properties together own Emicool), I was made MD of Emicool, in March 2010.
JOINING THE ’COOL
First, let me give a brief background about my association with Emicool. In 2008, I was appointed as Acting GM for a short duration. I received my posting as MD in March 2010. So, I have been in this position for a little over nine months. As Acting GM, I was required to step in as a temporary resource to do some fire-fighting. I studied the industry well during this time, and it has been useful. If you don’t know customer-behaviour how can you hope to serve them? So, I came with paradigm for customer orientation.
Since I have taken charge, we at Emicool have built a separate department for customer service, another department for finance and billing, and yet another for technical issues. Today, we have 5,600 customers who are connected to our district cooling plants. By the end of 2011, we will have 10,000 customers. How do I say 10,000 customers, you ask? Well, I still have new developments to be connected to the plants. They are Dubai Motor City, Dubai Lagoons and Retaj.
I love Emicool. It is a youthful company. And that is an advantage. If you are youthful, there is scope for growth. You can make the organisation grow.
It is a district cooling company that was initially formed to serve only a small community – the Green Community. Now I nurse a dream of making the company more dynamic, achieving sustainability, helping the environment, reducing the grid network and being a qualified utility service provider.
As a utility service provider, I want to serve other domains as well, in the future. Today, we serve the UAE. But we want to serve the GCC and, eventually, the rest of the world. That is my vision. I want to have a positive impact on the environment, reduce CO2 emissions and deliver chilled water at the lowest kW/TR. Today, I am working with Juan Ontiveros of the University of Texas at Austin, USA, whom I met through the International District Energy Association (IDEA). Together, we are aiming to achieve 0.82 KW/TR.
I believe that the company is in a continuous process of progress. I have put together certain guidelines. I want to establish a good relationship with customers who are going to be with me throughout the lifecycle of the project. I want to improve ERP and billings system. I want to establish an electronics communication regimen and SMSs.
CHALLENGES IN THE REGION
I see the fluctuation in the price of oil and gas as the major challenge. If the government could go for a fixed subsidising plan for 10 to 15 years, that would be of big help. We should be in a position to understand when the next hike in the price of electricity and water is going to be. Currently, we are living in uncertainty. However, I should hasten to add that this uncertainty is not only here, but is a global phenomenon.
Another challenge has to do with the need for the customer to truly understand the concept of district cooling and to realise that it is a reliable system and that it supports sustainable development. I want to increase the level of awareness about the importance of district cooling for health, safety, reduction in electricity consumption and a reduction of carbon emissions. The challenge is enormous, because like elsewhere in the world, the customer is looking for the cheapest option, the most economical solution.
I can understand the concerns of the customers (end-users). As it is, customers have to pay for water and electricity, and now, over and above that, they have to pay for district cooling. All these are huge operating expenses for them. So, they are dissatisfied. But they have to understand that from day one, when they bought a villa or an apartment, they have not had to invest in an individual chiller, so they have saved money. And also, they have not had to maintain it or replace parts. So, yes, there are savings. But the savings are hidden. They are embedded in the initial price of the property, which would have been much more, had the customers also had to pay for the chiller. Further, after they bought the property, the prices escalated, so they have made substantial savings on the cooling aspect of things.
In the final analysis, district cooling is definitely the way to go forward. People are questioning Dubai’s role in district cooling – whether it has adopted the right approach. But today, Dubai is an example for other entities in the GCC, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In my view, Dubai has done a great job in developing district cooling in the region, be it through Palm District Cooling, Empower or Emicool. They have given huge savings to the grid network. In Dubai Investments Park alone, the savings for air conditioning purposes is more than 700 MW. Surely, this is a valuable saving, right?
So, with the understanding that district cooling is the way forward, all district cooling companies should talk. They should discuss the road ahead. The authorities should be part of the talks, be they DEWA, Dubai Municipality or the Supreme Council. They should talk so that they can come out with a reasonable solution agreeable to all parties.
MY MENTORS IN LIFE
I have drawn inspiration from great people. Speaking from a scientific point of view, Albert Einstein is one such person. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan is another source of inspiration. In my view, he did something big for the country. He gave a real structure to the country and also its unity. The country progressed by leaps and bounds, thanks to his leadership and vision. Mahatma Gandhi is another source of inspiration for me.
My wife is Tunisian and is the MD of a company. She is a legal translator and is well known. We have four sons – Youssef, Ali, Zayed and Yacine. Actually, my son Zayed was named after, Shaikh Zayed. It was my way of showing my admiration for the great leader.
Our boys are what my wife and I live for. They are a good bunch of kids. Like all other young boys, they play football and are very much into music.
Organisational behaviour and quality management are two areas that have held an abiding interest for me. In fact, I have a Master’s degree in Quality Management from Wollongong University. So, you could say that it is my vocation and avocation.
Like my sons, I too am a football enthusiast. I play the game in my free time. And I’d like to believe I’m good at it! I’m a right back and have good stamina to last the entire course of a game. I have nurtured this interest even at work. At Emicool, we have a football team, which is, in fact, registered with the Dubai Sports Council.
I also play squash. I have reserved a slot for it on Fridays. I work out in the gym at least once a week. I think I have a good fitness regimen. Yes, I do take care of my health.
I don’t have a complex philosophy of life. It can be summed up in a single simple sentence: Don’t break anyone’s trust in life or promise or love.