Greener Tehran and a new generation of energy efficient buildings

September 23, 2021

Photo Credits: Kamyar Minoukadeh, UNDP Iran

Anahita is a girl with a mission – she is focused on saving energy. And she’s starting with her own apartment building.

As one of the over 3,000 students who attend energy efficiency programmes at school in Tehran, the capital of Iran, Anahita came to know of the huge amounts of energy that her country has been using up, placing a heavy burden on the economy. Excited about the efforts to save energy in buildings, and eager to do her part, Anahita asked her father to check on the efficiency of the powerhouse in their building. Another initiative the young girl took was to persuade her father to check with a specialist and replace all the light bulbs in the building with energy-saving ones. Anahita’s father, spurred by his daughter’s enthusiasm, raised the issue with other residents of the building and they are now collectively taking steps to consult with an energy service company in order to make their building more energy efficient.

Iran is one of the most energy-intensive developing countries and ranks among the top 10 emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. The increase in energy consumption in the country is about five times more than the worldwide average, and around 35% of this amount is consumed in different types of buildings. On the other hand, Iran expends approximately 20% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on energy subsidies. An energy efficiency expert predicts that if the current trend of consumption continues, Iran, despite being one of the largest energy producers, will need to import energy.

Improving energy efficiency is therefore vital to the country’s progress, and can contribute to both environmental and economic sustainability.

Policy Reforms and Market Transformation of the Energy Efficient Buildings Sector of I.R Iran is a project being taken up jointly by the UNDP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the Vice-Presidency for Science and Technology. The ultimate aim is to improve the national energy efficiency.

The project began with a series of pilot projects which targeted 36 government buildings, resulting in a saving of up to 8% in electricity consumption and 20% in natural gas consumption. This was achieved through energy-saving and performance contracting.

Launching ceremony of Energy Monitoring Information System in Tehran

The process started with an energy audit, where buildings were scored based on their energy performance. This was followed by energy-saving solutions being offered and implemented. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the energy efficiency programme is continuing through an online platform. One of the goals is to raise public awareness and promote environment-friendly behaviours, particularly among adolescents. Paving the way for a greener and more energy-efficient future in Iran.

Upon finishing energy efficiency programmes, elementary and high school students like Anahita celebrate their learning by making models and submitting energy-saving plans to make their school buildings more energy efficient.

This year, a reduction of up to 20% in energy consumption is expected in 400 buildings, including 36 governmental buildings where energy-efficiency solutions are being implemented. Ali, a Tehran resident, says, "With these solutions, we are not only saving energy for our country, but also taking care of our planet. This makes me feel proud."

As the project progressed, UNDP also extended support to the launch of the Energy Monitoring Information System (EMIS) in Tehran. This is a huge step towards introducing policy changes, regulation and monitoring of the energy performance by facilitating a new generation of energy-efficient buildings in Iran.

Through energy audits, EMIS will assess the real impact of implementing energy-saving solutions on energy consumption in buildings. The figures relating to consumption of energy and water in buildings will be directly transferred to the EMIS platform by smart meters and will be available online. The concerned Government departments, such as the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, will evaluate and revise energy efficiency laws, regulations, and policies based on data gathered by the EMIS.

In this way, together with national partners, UNDP is helming a gradual institutional shift towards more energy-efficient solutions for buildings. The efforts undertaken with the cooperation of 15 government organizations, 30 private companies, and five specialized NGOs, have already resulted in a saving of around one million dollars in primary energy.

In an initiative embodying an essential, future-oriented convergence of various environmental policies, Energy Efficiency Certificates will be issued on the basis of the EMIS. Buildings will be given scores based on the amount of energy they save, and receive certificates indicating both the extent of reduction of carbon dioxide emission and the impact of energy efficiency solutions. These certificates will also be a tradable commodity on the proposed national trading system, contributing to a more efficient market.

Cities are ground zero for the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the pre-existing structural weaknesses. As we respond and work towards recovery, we look to our cities as hubs of community, human innovation and ingenuity.

UNDP together with its partners is reacting to, and learning from the crisis and responding with options towards building forward better with greener strategies, greener infrastructure, financial instruments and green jobs.

These unprecedented times when many are facing socio-economic, public health and climate action challenges, calls for strategies which brings more efficiency to communities as a component of a much-needed broader approach to building forward greener in an equitable and inclusive way to ensure everyone enjoys clean air, healthy and comfortable living environments, quality jobs, and affordable energy.