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Sub-Metering in District Cooling - Well Worth the Effort

Mohannad Khader

Commercial & Development Director

Master metering or bulk metering gained its popularity when energy costs were low, however property-owners can no longer sustain the low rental costs due to the growing utility costs. Sub-metering is an emerging trend to regulate rates and keep rents competitive. Sub-metering encourages conservation, but can decrease the property-owners motivation to increase the buildings efficiency. There are proven studies of significant energy reductions, cost savings and positive environmental impact associated with sub metering.

Sub-metering uses individual meters to measure the consumption in each individual unit as oppose to a bulk meter which measure the entire buildings consumption.  With the sub-metering, residents can take control of their energy consumption, whilst obtaining accurate detailed information which aids them to monitor and understand their consumption.  Residents pay only for what they have consumed which allows direct financial benefits to be noticeable.

Sub-metering allows building owners and property managers to save on rising energy costs, improved energy consumption and increased energy conservation.  Building owners are able to better manage the utility expenditures and benefit from a customized end-to-end solution from the district cooling provider.

Sub-metering is not new, but the benefits continue to increase as more building owners and managers opt to switch to this user-pay system. Both residents and landlords are realizing the financial implications of their utility consumption, resulting in reduced usage of the system.  The environmental advantages of sub-metering are as significant as the financial savings and operational efficiencies.  

In weaker rental markets there are challenges for the owners as the properties may not be competitive, from a marketing perspective, with utilities being charged separately.  However this is where the district cooling provider intercedes and provides teaching and clarification with regards to the billing process, to ensure the residents receive the best possible billing and customer service.

Forward thinking district cooling providers such as Qatar Cool provide the residents and building owners a fully integrated billing platform and web portal which allows automation of data in an easy to use simplified format.

In free zone areas, where the developer of the tower is primarily motivated to complete the project and allow the owner to sell it to individuals, the relationship between the owner and the district cooling provider does not continue for 20 years (the typical contract period for district cooling agreements). Therefore, the district cooling provider would assign the rights and obligations to either the co-owners association or the individual owner, or both. Most commonly rights and obligations are assigned to co-owners association.

However, before proceeding with individual billing, the developer will have to comply with certain technical requirements such as, installing sub meters to each unit and providing physical accessibility to the installed meter. Furthermore, these meters have to be remotely accessible for regular meter reading and monitoring.

Sub metering of individual units provides the ability to capture the accurate consumption data via automatic readings.  The district cooling provider is able to quickly and remotely identify problems with the sub meter; the usage and wastage associated with the individual unit whilst having a backup solution for manual recordings should the unlikely event of a system failure.