Energy efficiency in buildings - building on huge potential

Group of people standing on roof and examining solar panel

Education contributes to the growth of renewable energy and energy efficiency markets worldwide. Photo: RENAC TREE

The 2013 Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attributes more than 18% of all global greenhouse emissions to the built environment. Poor insulation and outdated or inappropriate heating, cooling and water heating technologies are driving up consumption of gas, electricity and oil. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings can, therefore, help not only to protect the climate but also to improve the social economy. The IPCC argues that energy efficiency in buildings is one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the short and medium term, and has the potential to cut emissions by 38% by 2050.

Strategic implementation of energy efficiency in buildings needs to be underpinned by efficient electricity networks, the use of renewable energy, and energy-efficient architecture. Cross-sectoral expertise is also vital.

Therefore, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB) is funding a large number of projects to promote energy efficiency in buildings in developing countries and emerging economies. For example, the IKI's 'Global Knowledge Transfer on Energy Efficiency' project is supporting political and economic decision-makers around the world in drawing up national strategies and policy guidelines on energy efficiency. Its partner countries are China, India and South Africa. The 'bigEE - your guide to energy efficiency in buildings' online platform targets a wider range of countries. It was designed in cooperation with international institutions and provides information on a range of options and energy-saving potentials, and guides to good practice. The information is compiled by national agencies and tailored to the needs of specific developing countries and emerging economies.

The BMUB and the IKI organised a workshop on energy efficiency in buildings in spring 2015. BMUB experts and implementing partners from more than 10 partner countries met with invited guests, including Professor Peter Hennicke, winner of the 2014 German Environmental Award and member of the Club of Rome, to discuss the challenges of implementing energy efficiency measures in buildings and to share their experiences. It was clear that institutionally managed capacity development and respect for social and cultural aspects were vital. The workshop recommended that, alongside proactive knowledge sharing, a focus on potential co-benefits, such as savings on imported raw materials, reduced development of electricity generating capacity and network expansion as well as job creation or greater recruitment, was necessary to boost the willingness of individual countries to undertake reforms.