The story of Sharafat: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy can change lives

Author: Bekzat Anarbekov

March 28, 2023
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Energy is at the core of the climate problem but at the same time, it can be its key solution. For example, the significant amount of greenhouse gases that cover the Earth and trap the sun's heat come from energy production, when fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity and heat. Fossil fuels are the largest contributors to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions. Scientific studies have shown that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, emissions must be almost halved by 2030 and brought to zero by 2050. Otherwise, it may be too late to save our planet.

In Uzbekistan, about 40% of the generated electricity is used for heating and lighting. Uzbekistan uses 400 kWh of electricity for heating one square meter, while in the developed countries it takes 170 kWh. Based on Uzbekistan’s Second National Communication to the UNFCCC, the residential building sector is the largest energy consumer in the country and eventually, the sector is responsible for half of all energy-related GHG emissions (approximately 80 million tonnes (t) of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent annually). 

Our hero is Sharafat Upaeva, a mother of three and an entrepreneur who uses the electricity generated by solar panels in her daily life, in particular for lighting and household needs.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

In 2021 Sharafat acquired an apartment under the state program on "Rural housing" on the basis of the mortgage programme in the Amudarya district of the Republic of Karakalpakstan.

“I always dreamt of having my own apartment in the Amudarya district but with good living conditions like in big cities where my sons will grow in comfort”, Sharafat answered my question why she moved from a house to an apartment.

As she describes, in her old house the electricity shortage was a normal practice. It had a certain impact on her kid’s overall performance in school. 

“When the construction work was over and we were allowed to move to new apartments, I was very surprised that the apartment is always warm and, most importantly, the electricity is always on.”

A bit later, during the first meeting of the co-owners of the house, Sharafat and other residents were told that this house is special and it has a number of advantages compared to ordinary apartments, such as thermal insulation of the outer walls and photovoltaic stations that are installed on the roof of the house to generate the electricity.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan
“It was the first time I heard the phrase “Energy Efficient and Low Carbon houses” – says Sharafat.

Since then, she uses green energy for the needs of lighting, for basic household consumption needs such as using refrigerator and TV, and for recharging mobile phones and computers.

It's been like two years since I use green energy and I can say with confidence that it has changed not only my life but the lives of my children, too. Children's performance at school has improved since we got an opportunity to spend some time revising their classes at home due to having sustainable electricity coming from solar panels. 

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan
“The second huge advantage of living in such apartment is being able to save family budget to about 30% - 40% in bills for electricity and natural gas,” says Sharafat. “I say there are three main changes that new house brought to my life: stable and secure energy, better quality of life and a feeling of living in harmony with the environment,” she adds.

When asked how the past two energy crises (blackout and abnormal winter cold) affected their lives in general, she told an interesting story: due to the installed energy-efficient and low-carbon technologies, these crises have not drastically impacted their lives. At the time of the energy crisis, many neighbours even came to ask why and how it’s possible that they have electricity when there is a cut-off, and why indoor temperature in the apartment is above 15 Celsius even without heating. 

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Another benefit of living in such energy efficient and low-carbon house is having additional time for self-development because she does not have to spend her time on additional house chores.

“I finally saved up and opened my own business, a fashion studio. Now two more women work with me,” says Sharafat. 

She wants to further develop her business and create more jobs for unemployed women. She is happy to be able to make her small contribution to the sustainable and economic development of the country.

“I say there are three main changes that new house brought to my life: stable and secure energy, better quality of life and a feeling of living in harmony with the environment”
Sharafat Upaeva