Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and of district heating systems are at first glance two separate jobs, but only by linking them can real effects be achieved, as this creates a synergy and improves the efficient use of energy.
This objective was the main topic of the workshop on establishing a common approach to energy efficiency in buildings and district heating systems, held in Belgrade and organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
With the technical support of UNEP, the City of Belgrade has implemented the Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA) and District Energy in Cities (DES) projects, part of the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative (Sustainable Energy for All – SEforALL). The BEA project has so far gathered a variety of energy experts, across state and city-level public institutions, academia, international organizations and development agencies (VIDEO – Experts on the BEA Initiative in Belgrade).
Miodrag Grujić, head of Sector for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the City Secretariat for Environmental Protection, said that energy efficiency in district heating systems is insufficient without energy efficiency in buildings, so it is logical to combine them.
He noted that the BEA project has been completed, with the results being the Handbook on Energy Efficiency in Residential Buildings and Houses, and designs for an energy retrofit of the Primary School Vlada Obradović-Kameni in Belgrade’s area of Ledine.
“We are moving on with the DES project from which by the end of next year we expect two feasibility studies resulting in bankable projects and an Action Plan to modernize the district heating network, including network rehabilitation and tapping into renewables and waste heat,” Grujić said.
What 60% of energy is spent on
Sonja Maličević of the UNEP Office said that district energy is important because heating, cooling and hot water account for 60% of the global energy consumption in buildings, largely met by fossil fuels.
According to her, the DES project will also provide trainings for the relevant institutions in Serbia so that these institutions can carry out trainings independently in order to increase expertise in this field.
Maarten De Groote, head of research at the European Institute for Building Performance, noted that the decarbonization of heating in buildings as a set goal is far, but not unachievable. The optimization of district heating, and other sources of energy, with buildings is economically feasible, but also necessary because it will create smart districts, which are key in the transition to a sustainable energy system.
“It looks easy, but in reality, it is not. It’s like the chicken or the egg situation, buildings or district heating systems. What will we do with existing district heating systems in need of rehabilitation, while the renovation of buildings requires time? Therefore, an integrated approach to production and energy consumption is needed at the city level. The renovation of buildings must not be focused on individual cases, as it is now, but must extend to the entire district or part of the city enabling district heating system to be more efficient,” he said.
The main problems and measures for improving energy efficiency named by representatives of city utilities and civil society organizations include political accountability, activating the state fund for energy efficiency, education of relevant institutions, strengthening the data collection system, as well as involving citizens and raising their awareness of the economic benefits of more efficient use of energy.
A handbook that anyone can understand
Presenting the Handbook on Energy Efficiency in Residential Buildings and Houses, Maja Barać Stojanović, CEDEF Director General, said that this manual is written in a manner that everyone can understand, but that a certain amount of expertise has been retained.
“The document contains an overview of energy efficiency in buildings in Belgrade, as well as detailed measures citizens can take concerning the energy retrofit of their buildings, with procedures. Measures include architectural and construction measures concerning the envelope of the building, but also the ones concerning reconstruction or replacing heating and cooling installations, replacing lighting, changing user behavior…,” she said.