DEWA owned Mai Dubai seeks new avenues of sustainability as a carbon-neutral

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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Mai Dubai
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Dubai-based high-quality bottled water company Mai Dubai plans to use more sustainable solutions to manufacture and package water following its shift to a carbon-neutral company.

The company, which is owned by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, is entirely powered by renewable energy via its solar rooftop, which is the world’s second-largest solar power generation unit after a 37.6megawatt(MW) facility in Vietnam.

The full range of Mai Dubai’s water bottling activities is supported by 18.1MW of solar photovoltaic generation, which is backed by 52,056 panels. Enerwhere, based in Dubai, completed a solar panel installation that covers the rooftops of Mai Dubai as well as the nearby Ghaffath water reservoir.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer Mr. Alexander van ‘t Riet stated that a further 10MW of capacity will be added “over the next three years”, with an additional 20,000 solar panels installed across its expanding facilities.

Mai Dubai has also obtained significant support from the parent company. The company, which opened five years ago, is known for its bright red water bottles, which now bear a label showing that they are made entirely of renewable energy.

According to Mr. van ‘t Riet, the first phase of the solar power generation was turned on in 2017 but the entire project was completed last year and the company “started claiming being green.”

Mai Dubai, which its CEO said that, has the second-largest market share for bottled water in the UAE at 17 percent, plans to overtake the top spot in two years. The company plans to expand its current $136.1 million factories by adding new production lines. One of the company’s future production lines would be capable of producing 85,000 bottles per hour, or 20 bottles per second.

Some consumers have switched to water provided by contactless methods, such as air-to-water technology, out of increased concern for hygiene as well as concern for the environment. Atmospheric water generation (AWG) is a technique for extracting drinkable water from the air by condensing H2O molecules below the dew point. Water has been distributed to areas impacted by natural disasters using this tool. It’s also been used to provide water in remote areas, and it’s becoming more common in the GCC as a more sustainable way to generate water.

“That technology is also developing, we’re not ignoring that. The company is “keeping an eye” on filtration and air-to-water technology. There is nothing concrete at this point though,” Mr. van ‘t Riet pointed out.

Before pursuing a GCC-wide expansion, Mai Dubai intends to extend its operations to other emirates. Another significant opportunity for the business is the recycling of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, which account for the majority of water bottling in the UAE. Recycled PET, or rPET, is a relatively new market in Dubai, but one that manufacturers like Mai Dubai are recommending to address sustainability concerns.

Mr. van ‘t Riet remarked that “the demands for recycled plastic currently in the world is higher than the plastic that has been collected. Some large companies want to go 100 percent rPET and as a result of that there is a shortage globally.’

Mai Dubai is partnering with rivals to see if it can extend the use of rPET in the UAE. However, the success of rPET in the UAE will ultimately depend on consumers’ willingness to pay a higher price for recycled plastic bottles.

Related: UAE aims to use nuclear energy to power hydrogen production