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World’s ‘First Fuel’ For Cities

Energy efficiency was one of the main topics of the climate conference that took place in Bonn, Germany. Experts who took part in the technical meeting of the past negotiation session set a task for the governments of the world – to reduce the cities’ energy consumption on an urgent basis. This challenge is extremely actual for the Russian cities.

Over 50% of the world population lives in cities, which are responsible for 75% of global energy consumption and 80% of CO2 emissions. However, it is precisely where a great potential for energy efficiency lies, experts insist. City population is expected to keep growing rapidly. This is why reducing the amount of energy consumed by cities must become a key issue of the humanity’s climate change struggle. According to the experts, buildings, transportation and lighting are among the sectors with the biggest energy saving potential.

The reasons to use energy more efficiency do not only have to deal with combatting climate change, experts say. In order to implement energy saving programs many new jobs may be created. This is why the International Energy Agency (IEA) calls energy efficiency the world’s “first fuel”.
Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted the huge public health opportunity of addressing the causes of climate change, including inefficient use of energy. He also said that health is also a strong motivating argument that the general public understands. In many countries, the laws for regulating pollution are not for environmental protection, but for public health.

He cited the important economic implications. The International Monetary Fund estimates that if the largest 20 economies put a tax on carbon that was consistent with the health gains from reduced air pollution, this would raise over US$1 trillion per year, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 14%.

New data was also presented by IEA in the report titled ‘Capturing the multiple benefits of energy efficiency’ These benefits include enhancing the sustainability of the energy system, supporting strategic objectives for economic and social development, and promoting environmental goals and increasing prosperity.

At the Climate Summit in New York last year, countries, cities and corporations launched a large-scale initiative to double energy efficiency by 2030.

A recent United Nations Environment Program report shows that a transition to modern district energy systems could contribute to 60% of required energy sector emissions reductions by 2050, and reduce primary energy consumption by up to 50%.

A good example was shown by Paris, which is hosting the next UN conference on climate change in December of this year. In Paris, Europe’s first and largest cooling network has been developed and implemented. For cooling, it uses the waters of Seine River, which flows through the city.

A while ago Russia set about tackling energy efficiency with enthusiasm. A number of laws and other legislative documents were adopted, and the Government promised to support regional initiatives. Currently, according to the specialist from energy-related governmental bodies, energy efficiency programs are lagging way behind the planned objectives.

Governmental support of regional energy efficiency programs, which, according to many analysts, was the only functioning instrument of project funding, has gone up in smoke due to the complicated macroeconomic situation.

At the May interministerial meeting on clean energy, Deputy Energy Minister of the Russian Federation, Anton Inyutsin suggested creating a work group on sustainable development of energy systems and energy efficiency of the largest cities of the world, under the auspices of IEA.

According to Olga Senova, Head of Russian Social Ecological Union’s Climate Secretariat, residential buildings are still one of the key resources for improving energy efficiency, and this mostly concerns city’ old multistory buildings, constructed in 1960-1980’s, where heat consumption reaches up to 250-300 kwt*h per sq.m. In many countries in North Europe there is an allowed limit of 200 kwt*h per sq.m for this kind of buildings. For newly constructed buildings the norm is 30-70 kwt*h per sq.m, and there is a goal to reach the standard of so-called “passive houses”, which is 15 kwt*h per sq.m.
For Russia, the reduction of energy consumption, and especially the improvement of energy efficiency of heating, is an extremely urgent task. In order to solve it, the building code needs to be improved, and the energy efficient modernization of old housing sector implemented.

According to Kommersant newspaper, in Russia there are 89 energy saving “smart” energy efficient houses, in Northern Caucasus, Yakutia and the Moscow region. Initiatives on the city level may become a growing point for national energy efficiency plans, experts say, they only need help and support on the state level.