By Joel Bowman
As a little kid growing up on the Gold Coast of Australia, my mates and I would often build sand castles. Even though we built lots and lots of castles, we never tried to equip any of them with electricity, fresh water and cable TV. But that's exactly what's happening along
Impressive as this may seem, the crown jewel of
The press over here in the Middle East has been drowning in ink dedicated to the sheer magnitude of
But not everyone is happy with how things are progressing. Investors in The World, for example, were shocked a few weeks ago when Nakheel, not content with earthly inspirations, announced plans to build another reclaimed land project, The Universe. While it is difficult for us mere mortals to empathize with the plight of millionaire island-owners, one can only imagine the discomfort that news of an even more exclusive property opportunity must have wrought for investors. Honestly, who cares about being king of the world when your neighbor is the master of the universe?
Owners of The World, however, may have larger concerns than simply an acute case of "Universe-envy."
It seems the usual culprits of serious underinvestment in sustainable infrastructure and with runaway government spending have again colluded to thwart the best intentioned plans.
According to the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED),
"The report shows that the GCC utility sector is entering a critical phase," says Angus Hindley, research editor at MEED and author of the report.
With oil revenue continuing to flood the collective Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) coffers, there would appear to be little or no prospect of regional economic slowdown. Consequently, the GCC has embarked on an unprecedented building program and
"Combining with a distinct lack of investment in the first half of the decade," notes Hindley, "the reserve power capacity has fallen significantly across the Gulf, with the single exception of
Striking (and ironic) as the reality might sound, the actual new capacity requirements are expected to be even higher than this given that utilities departments will need to start decommissioning old installations.
Based on 2007 unit costs, the GCC power sector will require about $50bn of investment in new power generating capacity – no small drop in the bucket.
That brings us, of course, to the annoying little fact that
Not that this inconvenient geographical reality has curbed the enthusiasm of
And that's just the trees on a few offshore islands.
According to official figures, demand for desalination capacity - the predominant method of purifying water here in
GCC-wide cost projections for desalination projects alone – to which the thirsty city of
MEED sums up its rather alarming outlook for the city of sandcastles' infrastructure demands by declaring that "utilities are facing the most challenging time in their history."
The increase in competition for the feedstock is forcing utilities to consider new technology and alternative energy production, such as coal, nuclear and solar for the first time.
Just last month, for example, the UAE signed an agreement with
[Rude Endnote: So while the real estate market goes ballistic in
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