Energy footprint of IDP cottages: what investments are needed to reduce the cost burden?

22 April, 2010

Last month on our blog, we investigated claims that residents of the new IDP cottage settlements had been unfairly and without warning required to pay high bills for gas and electricity. The issue still hasn’t been properly resolved, but on March 26 the Energy Efficiency Center Georgia (EECG) presented preliminary results of a research project called “Clean Energy for IDPs,” (undertaken with financial support of USAID/ECI program) which provides valuable recommendations into the measures that can help IDPs reduce energy consumption and costs. EECG presentation highlighted two main causes of high energy consumption: the first is the architectural design and construction of the houses and the second is the type of heating source installed in the cottage. According to the EECG research, there are several low-cost and easy-to-implement energy efficiency solutions that would pay themselves back very soon, such as replacing inefficient light bulbs and ineffective wood heaters. Other energy efficiency measures would involve more intensive construction works (insulation of floors, walls and roofs) and would only pay for themselves after several years. Gas is the cheapest source for heating Electricity is twice as expensive as gas: one kWh of electricity costs more than 12 tetri, while the equivalent of 1 kWh of gas costs 5-6 tetri. Of the 13 cottage settlements built for IDPs in 2008, six rely on wood for heating, while seven settlements are hooked up to gas lines. All 13 settlements also have electricity connections and, when energy subsidization was unlimited (before October 2009), many households also used electric units to complement the gas or wood heaters (this was also because IDPs wanted their walls to dry faster). Better wood stoves could save IDP families GEL 240 per year In our last blog we suggested that IDPs in cottages that are primarily heated with electric units have the highest cost of heating, while IDPs who have wood stoves and receiving free wood are probably the best off. This was not exactly correct. As EECG’s research demonstrates, the wood stoves installed in the new settlements were designed to burn sawdust as fuel but IDPs have been burning wood in them (provided for free by the local municipalities). Consequently, the chambers inside the stoves burnt down and were quickly rendered useless. Another problem with wood heating is that the standard wood subsidies of 1-2 m3 per month do not cover the real demand in winter, and sometimes the wood is not delivered regularly. Therefore IDPs either have to purchase additional wood or collect it in nearby forests. When electricity subsidization was unlimited, IDPs often switched to electric heaters instead of using the inefficient stoves. However, as electricity is no longer an affordable option, families with broken sawdust heaters may be forced to buy a new wood stove from their own pocket before the next winter comes. A new, efficient wood heater costs GEL 300 on average. In fact, EECG’s pre-feasibility studies indicate that equipping IDP cottages with new wood heaters would make economic sense in a little over one year: if the government invested GEL 125,400 in providing IDPs with energy-efficient wood heaters for a total of 418 cottages in Metekhi, Khurvaleti, Mokhisi, Skra and Akhlsopheli , the savings to IDPs would be 1.1 million kWh of energy per year, translating into total savings of nearly GEL 100,000 or about GEL 240 per family each year. New light bulbs could save IDP families GEL 110 per year Another point where astonishingly large yet relatively easy improvements in energy efficiency could be achieved is the installation of energy efficient light bulbs. Replacing the 100 watt incandescent light bulbs with 20 watt compact fluorescent lamps would, according to EECG, require an investment of GEL 242,500 and result in yearly savings of GEL 428,295 or about GEL 110 per family each year. (The calculations are based on the assumption that each family has 5 light bulbs and they are in use for 4 hours per day.) Insulation of the cottages is more costly, but would result is the highest savings to IDPs Of course, not all energy efficiency investments are so straightforward to implement. Major amounts of energy could be saved by measures such as insulation of floors (including elimination of gaps and installation of linoleum or other materials), walls (adding layers of insulation materials but also eliminating the moisture buildup in walls), and roofs. With the exception of linoleum installation, all these actions require substantial construction works. It would take between 5 and 13 years for total savings (to IDPs) from this type of investment to match the cost (presumably made by the government). (An exception seems to be Prezeti settlement, which has the coldest climate of all IDP cottage settlements and where total savings as a result of insulating ceilings and roofs would equal the cost of investment in just a few years’ time.) Of course, if the government made these investments IDPs would experience immediate cost savings in terms of reduced energy use. Government and donors should consider making these investments sooner rather than later Large-scale insulation of floors, walls, windows and roofs in IDP cottages is a type of a measure that should be carefully planned and ideally should come hand in hand with a correction of other construction flaws in the cottages, in order to make housing solutions for IDPs truly durable. Insulation also requires a large upfront investment in return for gradual, long-term benefits in people’s well-being. These considerations of the volume and time profile of energy efficiency investments present a double reason for the Georgian government to seriously think about undertaking energy efficiency investments in IDP cottages in the very near future: If the problem is not addressed now, it will be left for the post-2010 period when international donor funding for Georgia’s IDPs may be much less generous than it has been in 2008-10. Leaving the current energy intensity of IDP cottages unchanged implies with near certainty that IDP families will continue facing high energy bills, which will keep them down in poverty. ______________________________ TI Georgia thanks the Energy Efficiency Center Georgia for kindly sharing their presentation and answering follow-up questions. EECG’s final report, scheduled for publication in late April/May 2010, is expected to outline the possible energy efficiency savings measures, providing comprehensive estimates of the amounts of energy which could be saved (electricity, wood, gas) and calculating the economies of specific model solutions for energy efficiency investments. The report will also analyze the potential for using renewable energy resources in IDP settlements.

Author: Mariam Khotenashvili