Sustainable Energy Solutions

Financing heating costs for low-efficiency public buildings is one of the biggest problems for public administrations countrywide
Financing heating costs for low-efficiency public buildings is one of the biggest problems for public administrations countrywide

Although rich in sources of renewable energy, Bosnia and Herzegovina is in the earliest stages of developing its enormous potential and uses about 20% of its GDP on energy (three times higher than in the US and EU).  At a time when the country is in the midst of economic crisis and facing many challenges, the importance of sustainable energy and renewable energy sources is beginning to be recognised.

As no legislative framework for alternative and sustainable energy use exists, renewable energy sources (RES), such as geothermal, solar and other forms of biomass and wind, have not been significantly explored, except on a small-scale. The existing RES systems are not connected to the power grid, as the necessary legislation and technical preconditions to facilitate have yet to be developed.

Public buildings and public institutions use heating systems that “burn” both energy and public money. The building sector consumes 57% of BiH’s total energy (compared to below 40% in EU countries). The average public building uses 220 kWh/m2 annually for heating purposes, an amount categorised as completely energy inefficient, according to the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).  Financing heating costs for low-efficiency public buildings is one of the biggest problems for public administrations countrywide, and places a huge burden on municipal budgets.

Three such energy inefficient buildings were located in neighbouring buildings in Bihać - the Culture Centre, Musical High School, Museum and Institute for Protection of Cultural Heritage.  For almost two decades the activities in these institutions would cease as soon as the first frost arrived. During the winter months the doors would close to visitors, and the children in the Musical High School would struggle to stay warm. The municipal and cantonal authorities could not pay the enormous heating bills to keep the old, energy inefficient buildings running throughout the year. Concerts, theatre plays, laughter and chatter would disappear when the colder months arrived.

To encourage the introduction of sustainable energy in the public sector by demonstrating its benefits, in collaboration with USAID, GIZ and CWS and with significant co-financing from local authorities, UNDP introduced several grants to assist municipalities to implement EE/RES projects that would ensure decreased energy consumption and greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions. Another, perhaps equally important, goal was to fight the widespread misconception that achieving energy efficiency is extremely expensive and “reserved” for highly developed countries.

The projects varied from simple interventions addressing energy inefficiency to the innovative use of complex sustainable energy solutions (installation of thermal façades, roof insulation, thermal solar collectors, biomass furnaces and low-consumption LED public-lighting). The installation of the Energy Management Information System (EMIS), which measures and monitors energy consumption, provided stakeholders with correct readings and the means to control their energy use.  In total, USD 3.7 million was invested in 37 pilot projects, resulting in annual savings of USD 660,000. Almost 360,000 people across the country have benefitted from the introduced changes.

One of these pilot projects was introduced in Bihać to help local authorities revive the cultural life of the entire municipality by enabling them to switch to renewable energy and keep their heating costs under control. Instead of individual solutions for each building, a joint heating system was developed based on biomass (wood pellets) from sustainably managed forests. Today, additional insulation and replacement of the old doors and windows keep the heat inside. On 26 February 2013, after almost 20 years, the Day of Bihać Town was marked by a series of concerts and events in the newly rehabilitated and energy efficient Culture Centre. The overall energy costs have decreased by almost 70%, but more importantly, the people of Bihać now have a warm place to gather and enjoy cultural and educational events. Additionally, as local companies will maintain the heating system and supply the biomass fuel, this represents an important boost to “green sector” business in this canton.

UNDP’s partner municipalities have now mainstreamed EE/RES planning and interventions into the programme of their annual budgets. Links between environmental/EE CSOs and local administrations have been strengthened and they have started jointly applying for sustainable energy projects. The number of municipalities requesting to be included in the EMIS is increasing: eight new municipalities (215 public buildings) are about to be added into the system, which with the previous 260 will make a total of 475 overall.

37 municipalities out of total 142 countrywide have now adopted Local Environment Action Plans (LEAPs), for the first time focussing on sustainable energy issues. Five of the larger municipalities adopted Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs).  Additionally, Energy Management Action Plans (a mid-term strategy for implementation of EE/RES in public buildings) are being developed in both Entities and the Republika Srpska Government has prepared and adopted a new law - “Law on Republika Srpska’s Fund for Environment and Energy - which is the first piece of legislation that addresses sustainable energy, energy efficiency and its funding. Similar laws have been prepared to address the same issue in the Federation BiH and Brcko District and are awaiting adoption.

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