Bosnia, piloting the way to energy efficiency

 A teacher and her students enjoy the newly heated classrooms
A teacher and her students enjoy the newly heated classrooms, thanks to a UNDP-supported initiative. Photo: UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina Aleksandar Zahorodni and Dragan Blagojevic

In the winter, the kindergarten in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s municipality of Gradiska was often freezing cold, with temperatures inside dipping to 7° Celsius. Swaddled in layers of heavy clothes, the kindergarteners could barely move. Teachers would rub their frozen fingers and stamp their feet to keep warm as they looked after the students.

Today, it may be cold outside, but the kindergarten remains a comfortable 20° Celsius thanks to a drive to increase energy efficiency in public buildings.  The roof was restored, windows were replaced, additional insulation was added and a new boiler using renewable, environmentally-friendly fuel was installed.

Highlights

  • 37 municipalities piloted ways to increase energy efficiency and reduce costs in public buildings, with potential benefits for approximately 360,000 people.
  • Officials from nearly 80 percent of the municipalities now deem energy efficiency a priority and have increased funding commitments by around 60 percent.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced by 2,000 tons annually

“Before, we were experiencing huge losses in heat and electricity,” says Principal Dragana Grahovac. “Children now feel much more relaxed and do not need to wear heavy winter clothes. They can run around freely, play and enjoy themselves.”

Gradiska is among 37 pilot projects initiated by UNDP across Bosnia and Herzegovina, in partnership with local and national stakeholders, and with funding from the Global Environment Facility and the Millennium Development Goal Fund. The pilots were designed to show how Bosnia and Herzegovina could address the longstanding problem of public buildings squandering energy and public funds for heating, cooling and lighting.

Recent studies found that buildings absorb 57 percent of the country’s total energy usage. Despite being a major energy drain, public buildings have been largely overlooked as energy consumers by various levels of administration.

The pilot projects have demonstrated that focus on energy efficiency can lower emissions, reduce costs and create green jobs while saving money for local development. Now, officials from nearly 80 percent of the municipalities deem energy efficiency a priority and agree that solutions need to be methodically planned.

Bosnia and Herzegovina does not yet have a national framework to systematically drive greater energy efficiency, but the UNDP initiative has fostered movement in that direction. A new law and by-laws on energy efficiency moving towards adoption will define responsibilities and goals at different levels of public administration, and require energy efficiency action plans. It will provide the basis for secondary legislation to advance sustainable energy use and integrate European Union directives into national laws.

To begin implementing the plans, UNDP provided seed grants for specific projects in schools, hospitals, municipal offices and other public buildings. Funds were matched and in many cases exceeded by local co-financing. Soon, change was evident to local residents — around 360,000 people. Thermal facades and solar collectors appeared on buildings. Insulation and biomass furnaces improved temperatures inside. Streetlights flickered on with long-lasting LED bulbs.

An initial investment of just US $3.8 million has already yielded annual savings of $660,000, and municipalities have increased funding commitments by around 60 percent. A less tangible but critical sign of progress has been an annual reduction of nearly 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.