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Data solutions help develop evidence-based policies to improve energy efficiency in ‎buildings in Armenia and Georgia

Who are the major actors engaged in a process of energy transition of buildings? What are the current and desirable data provision practices to support policy-making, energy planning and implementation of energy efficiency projects in buildings? Who are the major actors that collect data on building stock, energy consumption of buildings, urban planning and infrastructures?

These were among key questions considered at two workshops for Armenia and Georgia on 12 and 14 May 2020 – held online due to COVID-19 restrictions – that explored possible data solutions for evidence-based decision-making and stakeholder collaboration. In addition to policy-makers, the workshop brought together representatives of authorities at the national, regional, and municipal levels, statistical office representatives, urban planners, utilities and grid operators, building management companies, architects, engineers, and researchers from Armenia and Georgia, experts from Belarus, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, North Macedonia, Russian Federation, and Tunisia.

Alisa Freyre, Project Manager and Consultant on Data & Digital Solutions for Energy Transition highlighted the need for access to high-quality data, and the development and use of common indicators, with examples from New York, Geneva, Goteborg, Amsterdam, and Paris. With readily available software, this experience can be readily transferred to and used in Armenia and Georgia, as well as other countries of the region.

A case study from Switzerland – Information System of the Territory in Geneva (SITG) – highlighted this potential. Energy-related data provided by partner organizations covers heating systems characteristics, PV and thermal solar potentials, geothermal energy datasets, roof insulation images based on infra-red aero-photography, and energy plans for district development.  Through a Heat Consumption Index (HCI), this data informs cantonal energy policy, allowing the cantonal authorities to monitor the compliance of individual buildings with the legislative requirements and make prescriptions. Use of HCI data by building owners, building management companies, and energy professionals for implementation of energy projects and building stock management has also been demonstrated.

In many locations the data required to accelerate the energy transition is already collected by different institutions (mainly state agencies). However, there are many barriers that impede its effective use: a lot of data is still not stored in databases; there are gaps in standardization, including the metadata being not detailed or missing; no or little collaboration exist among the state agencies on data exchange; the infrastructure allowing efficient and secure access to data is underdeveloped; the legal base that determines the use of data is still to be elaborated.

Experts from Armenia and Georgia exchanged information on legal, technical and organizational solutions that have been or could be developed to overcome the barriers and make data available for multiple stakeholders on multiple geographic scales.

For example, an energy efficiency project in public buildings and street lighting implemented by the Government of the Republic of Armenia with World Bank support led to the creation of a database for 3,000 public buildings outside Yerevan – schools, kindergartens, hospitals, administrative buildings, etc. Within the framework of the UNDP-GCF “De-risking and scaling-up Investment in Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit” project, the Municipal Energy Management System and Energy Management Information System are foreseen to be piloted in several municipalities in Armenia.

The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia presented the legal basis for energy efficiency and the way it will develop. National Statistics Office of Georgia shared its experience in energy-related data collection and future plans. Many Georgian cities are developing Sustainable Energy Action Plans and Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans. Representatives of municipal authorities of Batumi and Rustavi provided information on the benefits of energy efficiency improvements in municipal buildings and in street lighting. The Energy Efficiency Center of Georgia and Sustainable Development and Policy Center further shared their experience in implementation of energy efficiency measures and the challenges that they have faced when preparing feasibility studies related to energy and buildings data.

However, challenges in the collection of various data related to buildings and lack of a unified platform for this data at different levels exist. UNECE will continue to support governments and other stakeholders to overcome these problems, leveraging its Guidelines and policy support and capacity building activities. The workshops made important steps in identifying key elements needed to develop data solutions to support energy transition of buildings for Armenia and Georgia based on the national case studies and insights from international experience.

Workshops materials and recordings are available at http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=53669 (Armenia, in Russian) and http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=53671 (Georgia, in English).