New House, New Life - Towards an Energy Efficient Future

Reducing greenhouse gases and improving quality of life in Belarus

“Our old flat was very cold. The wooden windows did not prevent the winter from joining us in our living room!” says Marina, a mother of four children from Mahiliou in eastern Belarus. She and her husband Pavel used their savings to replace the old window frames with new ones, but the ventilation system still brought condensation and mould.
An older looking apartment building

In older buildings, drafty windows and poor insulation made it difficult to regulate temperatures indoors.

Marina’s family is one of 433 participating in the project Improving energy efficiency of residential buildings, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and implemented by UNDP and the Department of Energy Efficiency of the Belarusian Government. A total of 92 buildings across the country, including three newly constructed pilot projects in the cities of Minsk, Hrodna and Mahiliou, have been insulated to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The new homes include facilities such as district heating, new ventilation systems, solar collectors and ground source heat pumps, which have resulted in huge reductions: energy consumption in the pilot homes has decreased 3 to 3.5 times compared to buildings constructed before 2,000 and by 40 to 50 percent compared to new multi-apartment buildings. GHG emissions are expected to decrease by at least 24,000 tonnes in the pilots. And 2,100 men, women and children will no longer be exposed to cold and humidity in their homes.

A family of 5 sitting on the bottom level of a bunk bed
A mother and her son sitting on the bottom level of a bunk bed smiling

Marina and her family are among hundreds of households participating in a project to improve energy
efficiency of residential buildings in Belarus.

Svetlana is another participant from Mahiliou who enjoys her new flat where she can regulate the temperature during cold winters and hot summer days. “The air is so fresh and pleasant here. I am very happy we are living here now,” she says. A UNDP organized training brought the 433 families up to speed on energy efficient practices in their homes, and over 1,000 energy auditors, developers, buildings inspectors and public authorities were trained on the new technologies as well. “It is very easy and comfortable,” says Svetlana’s husband Sergey. “It is very good that we started building homes like this. The air will be cleaner and there will be less CO2 emissions.”

A mother and her two daughters in a crowd outside on a cold day

After a day bundled up in the cold, Marina and her family are now able to return to a warm,
energy efficient home.

Energy efficiency to fuel the 2030 Agenda

Since the early 1990s, energy efficiency (SDG target 7.3) has increased in Belarus, which is now just below the global average according to Tracking SDG 7: Energy Progress Report 2018. The share of renewables (target 7.2) has also increased during the same period of time, reaching 6.8 percent in 2015 — but still significantly below the world average of 17.5 percent.

Transitioning to a more environmentally-friendly economy and creating economic opportunities for everyone are top priorities for the Belarusian Government and have been highlighted by the UN Development System through the dedicated MAPS (Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support) engagement with the country. Improving energy efficiency and strengthening investments in renewable energies have been identified as key action areas to that end.

A large white apartment building with 3 SDG logos on the side of the building

92 buildings across the country have been insulated to improve energy efficiency and reduce
​greenhouse gas emissions.

A roof of a large apartment building with solar panel rigs on it
An aerial view of a city and a large apartment building with solar panel rigs on the building

The numbers speak for themselves. The residential sector in Belarus is responsible for over 20 percent of the electricity consumption, over 40 percent of heat consumption and represents a third of the country’s GHG emissions. Improved energy efficiency has a massive potential to spur SDG progress through decreased carbon footprints, creation of green jobs, economic growth and improved health and well-being. Indeed it has been estimated that transitioning residential buildings into energy efficient structures could reduce GHG emissions by more than 130,000 tonnes per year and decrease government spending on imported fuel by more than US$17 million annually. And while Belarus has committed to keep greenhouse gases in 2030 at 28 percent below 1990 levels, estimates show that if all new buildings in the country adopted energy efficient technologies, the commitment could be increased to 36 percent.

Worldwide, energy efficiency has improved since 2010, by and large due to improvements in the industrial sector. But progress has been more hesitant elsewhere. Transmission and distribution losses, as well as residential energy consumption, remain high in low-income and lower middle-income countries, such as Belarus. Experts assess that greater policy commitments, new technologies, accelerated integration of energy performance standards in buildings, more cross-sectoral approaches — promoting for example fiscal incentives — and greater efforts in end-uses such as heating, cooling and transport, will be needed to reach the targets by 2030.

A mother and 3 children sitting on a couch holding a framed drawing of a family of 5

In addition to the improved comfort of her home, Svetlana appreciates the environmental benefits.

In Mahiliou, Marina is happy with her new home. “Since moving into the new flat last year, our lives have changed for the better,” she says. Svetlana agrees, she used to live in a home with her three children, husband and mother-in-law, with insufficient ventilation and heating. “The new place is much better and healthier. It’s pennies from heaven,” she says.

In 2017, Belarus presented its first Voluntary National Review on the country’s progress of the SDGs at the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York, an annual UN-led meeting that brings together ministers, business leaders and civil society. Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015, countries come together in July each year to tell the world how they are implementing the Goals — including their best practices and current challenges to move the SDGs from paper to practice.

-----Text: Catharina Klingspor, Knowledge and Advocacy Officer at UNDP
Photo: UNDP Belarus
Twitter: @CatharinaKling  @UNDP_Belarus  @SDGintegration