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Sustainable Energy Week at UNECE explores ways to improve energy efficiency and increase share of renewable energy

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are two of the three pillars of Sustainable Development Goal 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Progress in achieving the targets of SDG7 on energy efficiency and renewable energy is still insufficient in many countries of the UNECE region.

What works and what does not? How can energy efficiency standards lead to higher performance in buildings? What are possible ways to bridge communication gaps between policy makers and industry managers and engineers? What can countries learn from each other on overcoming barriers to investing in energy efficiency? Where are we now in developing renewable energy? How to integrate renewable energy in future energy systems, consider crosscutting issues and facilitate promising synergies? These were some of the issues explored at the sessions of the Group of Experts on Energy Efficiency and the Group of Experts on Renewable Energy held in Geneva from 31 October to 3 November 2017, preceded by the meeting of the Joint Task Force on Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings on 30 October.

Improving energy efficiency in buildings

On energy efficiency in buildings, delegates agreed that Framework Guidelines endorsed by the Committee on Sustainable Energy will require practical steps for their implementation to become a useful tool supporting the transition to high-performance buildings. Mapping of existing standards and gap analysis will help in identifying those steps. Cooperation between the two UNECE Committees – on Sustainable Energy and on Housing and Land Management – and at the national level between governmental bodies responsible for energy and the building sector was further recognized as critical for achieving success.

Enhancing energy efficiency in industry

In the industry sector, realizing the full potential to enhance energy efficiency requires the integration of the right type of strategy into a company’s core business operations and the support of senior management. The session provided a valuable opportunity to explore new approaches to the development of such strategies from the perspectives of industry and policy makers. It also provided a welcome forum to share practical information that can help companies and policy makers create more effective business cases for energy efficiency measures.

Innovating for energy efficiency

Investments in energy efficiency are still far below the potential. Energy efficiency programmes by utilities companies can be a useful tool and there is potential to scale up these initiatives in other countries and contexts. With the increasing digitalization of the economy, use of big data and geo-spatial data is becoming one of the most effective ways to improve energy efficiency in municipalities and make transition to sustainable energy a reality.

Supporting investment in countries’ renewable energy potential

The REN21 UNECE Renewable Energy Status Report 2017 provides insights into the lack of progress in South-East and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Russian Federation in exploiting their considerable and still largely untapped renewable energy potential, despite positive steps taken in terms of adoption of targets and regulatory policies over the last decade.

The renewable energy platform allowed an interactive exchange of information, experiences and best practices among experts. In particular, the identification of main issues from lessons learnt can provide a better outlook on future directions, in particular for unexploited markets still at the early stages of development. Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, who have recently hosted renewable energy “Hard Talk” events, shared their experience on the dialogue held among main stakeholders and international actors as well as on the concrete recommendations and identified priorities that represent the main outcome of the discussions.

Renewable energy development is important for climate change mitigation and within the context of energy for sustainable development. Most of the countries have set renewable energy targets for these global processes but a significant gap exists between intentions and reality. The report highlighted a substantial decline in investment in renewable energy in recent years, on the back of decreasing equipment costs, in South-East and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Russian Federation. Stable policies and targets will constitute essential drivers to attract investment to projects in renewable energy and energy efficiency.