Energy savings proposal to legalize settlements wins contest in Montenegro

16 Sep 2013

In Montenegro, UNDP has been working on urban planning issues for almost a decade as some 100,000 illegal settlements exist in the country, implying that every other household lives in an illegal home.  It was only when the problem was looked at from different perspectives – energy, economy, urban planning, and community engagement – that a solution came about.

UNDP Montenegro’s proposal - Energy Efficiency Formalization - won both the popular prize (most votes) and judges’ prize (expert review) in the Building Efficiency contest at the MIT’s ClimateCoLab crowdsourcing competition for the most innovative solutions to climate change.

Out of 379 proposals in 18 categories, UNDP Montenegro received the second highest number of votes. It was the judges’ comments and review of our proposal that gave a real push for what is coming next.

The proposal is about encouraging citizens to save on energy consumption and use these savings to finance the cost of legalizing illegal constructions, a common problem in emerging economies.  People living in informal settlements can then obtain a title to their homes, improve their standard of living, and save money on their energy bills.

The project idea – turning buildings from energy consumers to energy providers – would generate new jobs and revenues and have a positive impact on the national energy consumption and national carbon footprint in the long run.  Families who live in illegal homes would also improve energy efficiency in their homes and get a smaller energy bill.

The model behind this idea would not only bind these different groups together toward a common goal – energy efficiency – but also cause a paradigm shift by turning buildings from energy consumers to energy providers.

The new technology-led approach, which used crowdsourcing, social media, and big data, allowed the work to be presented far more effectively than traditional methods, solicited feedback on how to improve the idea, and facilitated connections with potential investors. Participating in the ClimateCoLab’s competition helped do all three.

“Submitting this idea to ClimateCoLab has been an interesting experience,” said Milica Begovic Radojevic from the UNDP Montenegro Office.  “This project could have a nationwide impact by increasing revenues to local budgets, reducing electricity consumption and negative impacts on the environment, and reducing the need to import electricity in our country.”