MED-ENEC - Energy Efficiency in the Construction Sector in the Mediterranean

MED-ENEC -

External cooperation programmes - European Commission

MED-ENEC Team Leader Disscusses the Advantages and Challenges of Energy Efficiency in an Interview with the Algerian Newspaper Alsha'ab

 

MED-ENEC's Team Leader is Interviewed by the Algerian Newspapaer Alsha'ab

English Translation of the Interview


Exclusively, Head of MED-ENEC MENA Region to ALSha’ab, Sept 9, 2014

Building sector is among the most energy consuming

EE presents the best solution and Algeria has great potential

 

Dr. Kurt is the head of MED-ENEC MENA Team. MED-ENEC stands for Energy Efficiency in the construction Sector in the Mediterranean, it is a project funded by the European Union. The program cooperates with the Ministry of Energy represented by APRUE through providing technical assistance in EE in the construction domain.  Alsha’ab magazine met with Dr. Wiesegart during his visit to Algeria to follow up on projects’ progress. He was asked about the purpose of the project and how much did Algeria achieve in the relevant field:

Interviewed by: Oussama Ifrah

Welcome Dr. Wiesegart and we would like to thank you for the exclusive interview. Could you please give us a brief introduction about MED-ENEC?

Dr. Wiesegart: the EU funded MED-ENEC project works with its partner countries in the MENA region to provide technical assistance in the field of improving energy efficiency in the building sector. We do that through the national energy agencies or the energy departments in the respective ministries.  The energy balance has two sides; the supply side, which is the part responsible for production whether gas or electricity, and the demand side, which is the consumer side. During the past 100 years, we would find that all countries were concerned with the supply side and they were always looking for increasing production whenever demand increased. Now however, all countries started to realize that energy resources are limited and are starting to realize that the demand side also must be considered, hence they started looking for ways to consume and use energy more efficiently.

This is now possibly, and energy efficiency can reduce the pressure on the supply side which will have to reduce  production. It is worth mentioning here that EE doesn’t mean losing a comfortable life style, it only means maintaining the same comfort while using energy more efficiently.

 

40 % of energy consumption is unacceptable

Why do you focus on the construction sector?

We focus on the construction/building sector simply because it has the highest share of energy consumption. I am talking about the end user consumption. You will find that this sector in all (MENA) countries consumes more than  40 % from the overall energy consumed. Looking at this rate, we understand that this sector has never applied the necessary measure to use energy more efficiently. Imagine how much electricity is being lost!

For example in most countries of Western Europe, if you would like to build a new house, you will never be able to obtain a building or construction license unless you comply with the so-called “energy efficiency building code”, meaning that proper insulation for walls and ceiling and double glass must be used. When you have applied all these measure, the energy consumption of the building will be much less.

In most MENA countries, including Algeria, you will find these building codes exist but they are not or not strictly  applied, which means these codes are not mandatory in order to obtain a construction license.

In Egypt for example, they have power plants with a total production capacity of 30.000 MW. If EE building codes were being applied, they will have to produce between 15.000 to 20.000 MW only, which means less power plants are needed and less infrastructure for transmission and distribution.

What does the EU benefit from funding such project?

It is in the best interest of the EU to reduce CO2 emissions, which is also an international goal, not only pertaining to one country. Therefore, the EU is always willing to provide technical support in that regard, and this is done either by using more renewable energy or by improving EE on the demand side, and this is what our project is concerned with.

Additionally, through cooperating with these countries which have the same philosophy as the EU, more synergy and enhanced relations will be created.

 

Infrastructure industry and unemployment problem

What are the advantages of energy efficiency over renewable or clean energy?

In MED-ENEC, our philosophy is: “the greenest energy is the energy which has not yet been used”. During the past 20 years, the discussion around RE has increased, and more projects were developed - solar, wind, geothermal…etc. For us it RE is important, but RE has its downside which lies in the impact on the environment, which has of course much less than negative impacts than oil and gas. However, we also have the disposability problem, meaning that solar panels after 20 years must be disposed - a problem that has not yet been solved. Also, if we used RE, we still need the infrastructure for transmission and distribution. Therefore, I repeat: The cleanest energy is the energy which has not yet been used. In addition, EE has a positive impact on the economic development. Let us for example compare, in Algeria, if interest was more channeled towards RE, which is of course important but it will not have positive impact, at least in the first few years, because all equipment are imported from abroad, from Germany, Denmark and Spain in the sector of wind energy, and in the case of investment in solar energy, unemployment rate in Algeria will not be effected positively.  It will instead create jobs in China where the solar panels are being manufactured. However, if we look at energy efficiency, and we are mentioning here the building sector only, all the material and equipment used for insulation of roofs and walls, and the double glass for windows can all be manufactured locally in Algeria, which means a direct positive impact on the unemployment in Algeria - and not another country.

Does this mean we should not follow the 2 paths?

I am not saying that RE is not important, but EE is known to be less expensive.

 

Impact of investment in Production

From your experience, how do you compare the advantages that Algeria has over other MENA countries?

Algeria, like all other MENA countries, has a huge potential in the solar and wind energy fields and can develop RE more and more, however, investment in supply only means, more investment in the relevant equipment and infrastructure, which will not solve the problem as long as the produced energy is wasted by the consumption side.

In addition to this, it is important to mention that EE needs a real and strong commitment from the government. In case once the government decides to invest in RE, investors in wind and solar will start to come to invest in wind farms and in solar power plants. However, EE in the building sector is different; it simply has to do with two groups: on one hand you have the investor that does not want to spend more on insulation and double glazing because he is not the one paying the energy bill later; it’s the lessee, therefore, the government has to interfere to change the situation by making EE building codes mandatory, and accordingly, each investor in the building sector has to comply with EE  regulations and measures.

Even the pricing mechanism doesn’t work: we have a theory that says that whenever the prices of energy increase, the market tends to move towards EE. This is quite true in the transport and industry sectors, for example, if the energy prices increase the industries will look for more energy efficient equipment and material, also the transport sector, however it is different in the building sector because you have the producer on one side and the consumer on the other side.

What about the importance of communication and awareness in that field?

It is very important on all levels. In my personal opinion, we have to start from the government level and convince them that it is important to implement all the laws and codes that we have previously mentioned, and as much as the government is committed, implementation strategies will be developed, meaning making the necessary human resources available. Also, the administrations, which will be responsible for implementation, follow up and monitoring, and, not forgetting the engineers and professionals.

If we want to go a step further, we have to raise the public awareness – including Children already - about the scarcity of resources. Yet, we have to start from the government level and coordinate between the relevant ministries.

Finally, how was your visit to Algeria?

We enjoyed it very much; it was very beneficial and we had productive meetings with APRUE over 2 days, which is an organization that we have been cooperating with for many years and successfully achieved many positive results. As for Algeria, I like to visit it a lot and I enjoy its scenery, and we will be definitely coming back.

 

Dr. Kurt Wiesegart in brief:

  • German expert and consultant for companies that invest in China, and other Asian countries.
  • Studied Economics, psychology, Chinese language and Chinese philosophy and history in German Universities and in Beijing.
  • Deputy director of EU energy and environment program
  • MED-ENEC Team Leader
  • Speaks English, German, Chinese, a little Arabic and likes History, music and photography.
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