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Speeches & Transcripts

Energy efficiency of buildings – an area for green growth action in Bulgaria

February 24, 2011

Markus Repnik Green Forum 2011 Sofia, Bulgaria

As Prepared for Delivery

Mister Chairman, it appears that we have a panel with a single message here, the message about importance of Energy Efficiency and in particular Energy Efficiency in buildings, so please let me add to this.

Madam Ambassador, Ministers, esteemed guests, colleagues,
Please let me try to build on the interventions of the previous speakers and colleagues, please let me try to provide answers to 3 questions:

  • First, WHERE does Bulgaria stand today on its Green Growth past?
  • Second, HOW should Bulgaria act?
  • Third, WHAT would be a good area to act? Mainly Energy Efficiency in buildings.

We are hearing many definitions about Green Economy, but all of them have a common basis: A green economy is an economy that is low on carbon emissions, low and mindful on resource use, and low in terms of production of waste and pollution.

WHERE does Bulgaria stand today? The short answer is – Bulgaria needs to catch up.
Bulgaria is the country with the lowest per capita income in the EU and at the same time Bulgaria uses resources including energy very inefficiently emits a lot of greenhouse gases and produces a lot of waste compared to other EU countries.
For example, Sweden. Sweden has the same greenhouse gas emissions per capita but produces an 8 times higher GDP with this greenhouse gas emissions than Bulgaria.

I suggest that Bulgaria acts along three principles: scale, speed, and coordination - with a focus on “win-win” areas.

Scale - Bulgaria should move in a bold manner
Currently, I understand, there are many green economy related initiatives going on – all of them relatively small, most of them implemented in a fragmented manner. The challenge is to move from individual small pilot projects to large scale programs.

Speed - Bulgaria should move fast
Resource use, carbon emissions and waste are increasingly important competitiveness factors.  Given where Bulgaria stands today, Bulgaria needs to act faster than other countries to catch up.

Coordination - Bulgaria should move in a coordinated manner
Moving ahead large scale with speed requires engagement of many actors, requires well coordinated approach across institutions.

It is about coordination within Government across sector ministries. This calls for a top government coordination mechanism on green economy priorities.

And it is about coordination between central and local Government and private sector. This calls for a high-level mechanism between Government and private sector on Green Economy opportunities and priorities.
So, it is about bold, fast and coordinated action – but in what areas? It is important to identify “win-win” areas. What are “win-win” areas? These are those where scaled-up actions and investments create economic, social and environmental benefits AND where these benefits are created today and in the future.

This brings me to the THIRD point, namely that energy efficiency of buildings is such an obvious win-win area.

Energy efficiency is a huge untapped energy resource, globally and in particular here in Bulgaria. According to the International Energy Agency, one Euro invested in energy efficiency saves 2 Euros in building up new generation capacity.
Buildings consume a lot of energy. Up to 40% of all energy used in the European Union  is consumed in buildings.

At the same time, the energy savings potential of buildings is huge. According to the OECD, energy consumption by existing buildings can be reduced by up to 50%.  And given the large share of old panel apartment buildings in Bulgaria – 2.7 million Bulgarians live in those buildings - the energy savings potential in Bulgaria could be even higher.

In short, Bulgaria’s energy consumption could be reduced significantly if existing buildings would be retrofitted with energy saving measures like insulation and exchange of windows through a large scale program.

But how to increase scale, speed and coordination for Energy Efficiency in buildings?
Imagine the benefits of a large scale coordinated Energy Efficiency program targeting about 6,000 public buildings in Bulgaria, as well as the panel buildings with approximately 700,000 apartments.

What would be needed for such a program?

First, top Government leadership
Based on many conversations, including with Ministers here with us today, I am very convinced that top Government leadership for a large scale Energy Efficiency program in buildings is in place. 

The Government should also set the example and move ahead with a large scale program to retrofit public buildings..

Second, money
Retrofitting buildings saves money in the long term, but it needs money in the short term. Therefore, setting up a large scale single umbrella mechanism for retrofitting buildings needs two things: it needs financing drawing on many existing and potential sources, and it needs a coherent model of co-financing where public resources would complement private resources.

EU Funds, and Minister Plevneliev was referring to this, in particular structural funds, could be used to co-finance such a program. In Addition to Czech Republic, France is a good example. France is effectively using EU funds and the 2009 regulatory change under the European Regional Development Fund. With EU funding, France is retrofitting 80.000 social housing apartments. This will be completed in  2 years after the launch of the program and will cover 10% of all social housing apartments. Bulgaria could re-program EU funds that most likely will not be absorbed within the current programming period, and use these funds as an important source of co-financing for such a program.  So it is about Government leadership, it is about money, but it is also about an enabling framework.

Third, an enabling framework
You are know that the Government of Bulgaria has set a 25% energy efficiency target by 2020 and is currently finalizing the draft Energy Efficiency strategy, which puts a big focus on the housing sector.

But it is not only about strategy, it is also about the legal framework and implementation capacity. This includes the law on homeowners’ associations and it includes, as well, codes and standards for buildings and Energy Efficiency.

Ladies and Gentleman,

I have tried to make the case why Bulgaria should move ahead fast, bold and in a coordinated manner on the green growth path, including on Energy Efficiency in buildings. And I have tried to make the case that Government leadership is crucial.

But while Government leadership is necessary, it is not sufficient. Because, at the end of the day, it depends on all of us, on our daily decisions, how we invest and how we consume - it depends on the resources used, the carbon emitted and the waste produced with our decisions. It depends on us.  We all need to act. We need to act differently, we need to act together. And today’s Green Economy Forum provides an ideal opportunity to discuss how we could all act – for our benefits and the benefits of future generations.
Thank You.