Improving energy efficiency is a cost-effective means to support economic development while contributing to climate action. On a national scale, energy efficiency helps strengthen energy security, reduce energy expenditure, slow down energy demand growth, reduce investment needs for new generation capacities, and creates green jobs. Out of all sectors of economic activity, in many countries, the buildings sector has the largest potential for cost-effective improvement in energy efficiency and emissions reductions.
To help capitalize on this potential, UNECE has developed three in-depth national studies for Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and the Republic of Moldova under the project “Enhancing National Capacities to Develop and Implement Energy Efficiency Standards for Buildings in the UNECE Region”, with a focus on residential buildings. Drawing on UNECE’s Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings, the studies analyze the energy performance of buildings, implementation of current building energy efficiency standards and provide country-specific recommendations to bridge the gap and enhance national capacity to develop and implement energy efficiency standards for buildings.
The national study in Armenia revealed that buildings are one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). 18 per cent of the total GHG emissions is from fuel consumption in residential buildings. The share of the residential buildings in total final energy consumption is 38 per cent. At the same time, the building sector presents significant energy saving potential, which can be realized through the effective use of modern energy efficient technologies and practices, reinforcement of robust certification systems for energy efficient buildings, and energy efficiency lending by international and local financial institutions. The Government of Armenia has put efforts into effective enforcement of recently adopted legislation in the building sector. Some relevant technical regulations and standards have also been adopted to improve the effectiveness of the whole regulatory system in the building sector.
However, the study suggests that further strengthening existing building legislation towards introducing requirements for near-zero energy consumption buildings should be considered. Commitments to ensure the necessary conditions should be also put in place to allow local authorities to finance energy efficiency measures in the longer term. Encouraging energy efficiency improvement can be achieved by providing innovative financial mechanisms and creating attractive conditions for the application of energy performance contracting and energy service companies (ESCOs).
Energy efficient retrofitting. Photo credit: UNDP Armenia
The national study in Kyrgyzstan concluded that electricity is one of the main sources of energy consumed in the building sector, accounting for 64 per cent. Energy saving issues are very relevant for the Kyrgyz Republic in light of energy shortages caused by increased electricity consumption, limited generation capacity and low water periods, which limit the output of hydropower plants – the main source of generation in the country. Energy saving is one of the key tools for the country to overcome these challenges by meeting all the energy needs through rational use of electricity even without introducing additional generation capacity.
The study highlights that energy tariffs are below cost recovery (electricity, gas, heat and hot water). A comparison of low energy prices and costs of energy saving interventions showed that the profitability of these measures is currently questionable. The governmental bodies responsible for the development and implementation of energy efficiency policies are currently led by the Ministry of Energy and Industry, and while strategic energy efficiency-related documents have been adopted, they are mostly declarative and lack mechanisms for implementation, the study notes.
A number of projects supported by international organizations have been implemented since the early 2000s. This has provided positive experience in implementing energy saving measures at various sites, but implemented projects have often proved unsustainable after the donor funding stopped. The problems identified in implementing energy efficiency programmes and projects included gaps in tendering procedures and the inability to access financial savings arising from energy savings.
The national study in the Republic of Moldova indicated that the existing policies to enhance energy efficiency in buildings include framework legislation, building energy codes, energy performance certification, energy pricing measures, financial incentives, and awareness programmes. However, it points to the need for further actions in order to implement national targets for high-performance building projects. The country’s new economy-wide target is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. At the national level, there is an overlapping of the climate and energy planning processes, especially those related to the Low Emissions Development Strategy until 2030 and decarbonization dimension of the National Energy and Climate Plan. In order to comply with the set energy efficiency targets, the study highlights the need for Government activities to be updated in accordance with the climate targets of its second Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement. Secondary legislation also needs to be updated in accordance with the new decarbonization commitment.
As of 2021, all new buildings in the Republic of Moldova must be nearly zero-energy buildings if economically feasible solutions are identified. However, the study warns that implementation of this objective may be difficult due to financial and technical limitations. In response, it suggests the introduction of initial incentives for the purchase of energy saving technologies.
The assessments follow up on a study on gap analysis between the performance objectives set forth in the UNECE Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings and current energy efficiency standards and their implementation in the countries of South-Eastern and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and in the Russian Federation.
The Gap Analysis reviewed existing energy efficiency policies in 17 countries; implementation of energy efficiency standards in new and existing buildings; existence of compliance and enforcement mechanisms; institutional capacity; and effectiveness of existing energy efficiency policies. It presents the findings on conformity of the existing energy efficiency standards with the Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings; identifies barriers to the effective achievement of energy efficiency policies potential; and provides recommendations to help bridging the existing gaps.
The UNECE project also developed a Collaborative Environment composed of an online database of experts in energy efficiency in buildings, and online collaborative tool to strengthen experts’ capacities by sharing knowledge and expertise. This will enhance the network of experts from both public and private sectors working on energy efficiency in buildings in the UNECE region.