Croatia: Energy efficiency programme generates huge savings


Over a two-year period, 24 projects cut energy consumption by 13 percent and saved the city of Sisak US$220,000 per year. (Photo: UNDP Croatia)

Early in 2011 the energy-efficiency team in the Croatian Ministry of Justice was alarmed at abnormally high rates of water use recorded at Lepoglava Prison, a penitentiary dating back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A probe of the underground pipes identified a huge leak that was fixed with a repair costing $4,000. The resulting savings: $225,000 per year.  Without the vigilant monitoring and quick diagnosis provided by the energy-efficiency programme run by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this loss would have gone unnoticed.

The Lepoglava Prison story is just one example of the savings that the energy-efficiency programme is generating all across Croatia’s public sector. After six years of operation, it has reduced annual public spending by an estimated $18 million—savings that for a single year well exceed the total costs of the programme so far. At the same time, it has cut emissions of greenhouse
gases—which contribute to climate change—by 12 percent in 5,900 public-sector buildings, thereby reducing Croatia’s total CO2 emissions by 63,000 tons, or 0.2 percent per year. Savings are set to grow as capital investments stimulated by the programme come on stream.

Launched in 2005 with $4.4 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), it set out to remove barriers to energy-efficient practices and technologies in Croatia. As in many countries emerging from state socialism, energy use remains wasteful: per unit of GDP, Croatia consumes 12 percent more energy than the European Union (EU) average.

Highlights

  • The programme has reduced public spending by an estimated $18 million per year.
  • Croatia’s total CO2 emissions have fallen by 63,000 tons, or 0.2 percent per year.
  • $4.4 million was provided by the GEF.
  • Energy audits stimulated energy-efficiency investment projects worth $30 million.
  • 10,000 Croatian civil servants have benefited from specialized energy-efficiency training provided by the programme.
  • 52 percent of all public-sector buildings in Croatia are now covered by the energy-efficiency programme.

In focus : public-sector buildings

The programme took aim at buildings because of their large share of energy use, and targeted the public sector because it was thought that the Government itself needed to set a good example. One project component covered buildings owned by central ministries and agencies, while a second focused on facilities owned by Croatia’s 20 counties and 127 cities.

Winning political commitment to the project was a crucial first step. This required proving to sceptics that progress was possible, so the programme first conducted a pilot in Sisak, a typical Croatian city with a population of 50,000 and a legacy of polluting industries and war damage. Over two years, 24 demonstration projects cut energy consumption by 13 percent and saved the city $220,000 per year. They also cut annual CO2 emissions by 780 tons.

This initial success piqued the interest of other towns. The project transformed this interest into public commitments by encouraging city mayors and county prefects to sign an ‘Energy Charter’ in which they pledged to implement systematic energy management in all the facilities under their jurisdiction. Within eight months, all 127 mayors and all 20 county prefects had signed, and the charter is now on proud display in virtually every city hall in Croatia. At the central level, 15 of 16 ministries made the same commitment.

At the same time, the project conducted a comprehensive national media campaign to raise public awareness about energy efficiency. The main message was conveyed through a charismatic animated character: Gašpar Energetić, who helps his big-spending neighbour Trošimir implement various simple energy-efficient measures in his house. By the end of the campaign, Gašpar Energetić had 4,300 friends on Facebook. He also starred in a short film for children, Think of Tomorrow, which has been distributed in 500,000 copies and shown during educational ‘school hours’ led by the project team.

To complement these efforts, the programme created a network of six information centres to give citizens hands-on advice on making their homes more energy-efficient. These information centres reflect a unique partnership: counties and towns provide the space and staff, while private-sector producers of construction materials and appliances donate demonstration equipment. The newest of these facilities, in Zadar, also houses a Solar Education Centre, which provides training in solar technologies and graduated its first class of certified assemblers of solar water heaters in June 2011. The project has also erected scores of informational displays; in all, 98 ‘info-points’ have been set up in 43 towns and 12 counties.

Nationwide energy monitoring

Building public support was just the beginning, however. The programme also worked to support the adoption of policies conducive to energy efficiency, building on the momentum created by Croatia’s drive to meet the  requirements for EU accession. UNDP expertise helped shape the Law on Efficient Use of Energy that was passed in 2008, the Croatian Energy Strategy that was adopted in 2009, the National Energy Efficiency Programme covering 2008-2016, and the First National Energy Efficiency Action Plan for 2008-2010. The programme also helped to draft legal regulations and textbooks governing ‘energy audits’ of buildings.

These energy audits were a vital tool as the programme set out to identify inefficiencies in public-sector buildings that could be addressed through modest capital investments. When the programme started, energy auditing was an infant industry. Between 2006 and 2010, UNDP conducted 1,069 energy audits covering 2.5 million square meters in 1,346 buildings.

This stimulus helped build an industry that is now mature and thriving, numbering 17 companies and more than 150 energy-audit experts. In addition, the energy audits spurred investment projects worth $30 million, a figure that also underlines the potential for ‘green job’ creation in a country struggling with an unemployment rate of almost 20 percent.

But the real heart of the programme is the web-based Energy Management Information System (EMIS), which enables the real-time monitoring and management of energy consumption in public-sector buildings. Since large amounts of energy are used to pump water, with high levels of leakage, the system also measures water usage. EMIS is available to all Croatian public sector institutions free of charge, giving all who want it an easy tool to compare energy usage and maintain transparency (which helps fight misuse as a side benefit).

To ensure sustainability, energy and water monitoring and management are vested in the hands of teams of  civil servants, within each organizational unit at every level, from individual buildings to ministerial headquarters. In six years, 10,000 Croatian civil servants have received specialized energyefficiency training from the programme, and UNDP is now working to ensure that ‘energy manager’ is recognized as a standard public-sector position.

The reach of the system is impressive. More than 5,900 separate facilities (2,400 under ministries and 3,500 in cities and counties) have so far been hooked into EMIS, meaning that 52 percent of the total floor area of all public-sector buildings in Croatia is now covered by the energy-efficiency programme. The programme aims to expand to cover a total of 7,000 buildings by the end of 2011. The scope and systematic nature of energy and water monitoring make possible the sort of dramatic success seen at Lepoglava Prison.

Government ownership

With cities, counties and ministries all reaping big savings that can be channeled to urgent needs in health, education and welfare, it’s no surprise that the UNDP project now has the status of an official government programme. Since 2008, the project has received government funding through the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency and the Ministry for Economy, Labour and Entrepreneurship. As of June 2011, the project relies exclusively on government funding. It is notable that this funding has survived two years of grueling recession and is now slated to continue until 2013, to ensure a smooth transfer of the UNDP-run energy-efficiency system to national institutions. By this time, the initial $4.4 million GEF grant will have generated total government contributions in excess of $16 million.

Croatia’s successes in ‘putting its own house in order’ (as one component of the programme is called) have set a course towards meeting the tighter energy-efficiency standards practiced in the EU, which the country expects to join in 2013. They have also set an example that other countries are eager to emulate. The project has already been replicated, at the Government’s request, in neighbouring Montenegro, and a similar programme is being prepared for Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of Serbia. Expertise developed in the project has also been sought in countries as diverse as Belarus and Tajikistan. As UNDP undertakes to shift its activities in Croatia from traditional development assistance to the export of good practices to other countries, the energy-efficiency package will top the list of the knowledge it aims to share.