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UAE's United Foods makes the leap into renewable energy

Published on October 20, 2020
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UAE-based United Foods Company has signed a deal with Yellow Door Energy to develop and maintain a 2-megawatt rooftop solar power plant at its edible oil and fats factory, located in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Industrial Area.

The DFM-listed company, which is a leading food manufacturer as well as distributor in the UAE, said in a press statement that the duration of the design-build-operate and maintain agreement would be for 20 years.

It said the plant, which will cover the entire area of the factory’s roof in Jebel Ali, would include over 4,400 solar panels, and provide almost half of the factory’s energy consumption needs. 

The rooftop solar plant is expected to generate 3.3 GWh of clean energy in its first year of operation and more than 78GWh over its lifecycle of 25 years, the statement said.

United Foods CEO Fethi Khiari said the plant will help the company reduce its energy bill by close to 50 percent and save 700,000 UAE dirhams in the first year of operation.

“Considering the system’s lifetime of 25 years, we will be saving 25 million dirhams or one million dirhams every year,” said Khiari.

The plant would save the company over 50 percent on every kilowatt-hour it generated, according to Jeremy Crane, CEO, Yellow Door Energy.

“Solar power systems decline slightly in their performance year-over-year, but it tends to be less than one percent,” he said.

Crane pointed out that general rule of thumb is that 20 percent of the cost of manufacturing is electricity.

He continued: “If a business can reduce that by 50 percent, its overhead cost would be reduced by 10 percent. In the difficult times we are in today, this can have significant impact on a business’s profitability.”

The rooftop solar plant would meet more than 40 percent of the Jebel Ali factory’s energy consumption. It would also be connected to the power grid under the Shams Dubai net metering program of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).

Crane said: “Under Shams Dubai, a company can produce as much as power as it has permit for, and if it produces more power than it is consuming in the daytime, the excess power goes to the grid. The company gets credits that it can consume in the night time.”

The rooftop plant would reduce the company’s carbon footprint by offsetting 1,400 tonnes of CO2 per annum, he noted.

Other sustainability initiatives being considered include adding electric vehicles to the company’s transportation fleet.

“We use big tankers, trucks, vans and small cars. [Existing] prices are not allowing us massive use of electric vehicles, but they would be a priority as soon as they are available,” he said.

The company currently uses fuel efficiency as the main criteria for acquiring vehicles for its fleet.

Source: Press release

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