31 May 2011
This week, it was announced that a joint plan from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote energy efficiency in East African buildings was approved by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), to the tune of $2,853,000. Now that the acronyms and numbers are out of the way, here's what's happening:
UN-HABITAT cites figures that show that more than 40% of all energy use in developing countries goes to urban buildings. That beats out consumption for transportation and industry. And now that more than 50% of the world's population lives in urban areas, that's a lot of energy.
It's a lot of wasted energy, too: many new buildings in Sub Saharan Africa are not well designed for the local climate. That means a lot of extra energy goes to lighting, ventilating, and especially cooling the buildings.
Now, UN-HABITAT and UNEP will work with the governments of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi in the next four years to bring to East Africa the sorts of energy efficiency measures that are becoming more common in the United States and Europe.
They will employ awareness campaigns, fiscal and financial incentives, and policy changes to change housing policies, building codes and building practices. (These days, that means less LEED certification and more Passivhaus design.) Energy saved, carbon emissions reduced.
UN-HABITAT lays out the project's raison d'etre:
The demand for electricity is increasing more rapidly than the supply and generation capacity in all countries in question. Increasingly higher energy prices coincide with a tremendous inefficiency in the use of energy, particularly in the housing sector.
This tendency has led to energy becoming the limiting factor for sustainable development and economic growth in the recent years. Energy efficiency in buildings is a largely new topic for practitioners and most importantly for consumers and end users.
Going beyond CO2 levels and sustainable development, this becomes an issue of economy and equality. Developing nations are in even less of a position than developed ones to waste precious resources, and this program will help them not to let their energy (money) go to waste. The nations of East Africa can then put their saved resources towards better uses than unnecessary air conditioning.