Ecofys leads project for energy-efficient buildings in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon

11 April 2018 5 min. read

Sustainable energy specialist firm Ecofys is leading efforts to promote the use of more efficient heating and cooling practices in the MENA building sector, with targeted pilot programme initiatives underway in Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan.

As part of the international climate initiative (IKI) supported by the German environmental ministry, the global professional services firm Navigant’s European-based energy and sustainability consultancy Ecofys is leading an association of local consultants and agencies in the push to enhance energy efficiency in the Middle East and North African buildings sector.

Covering energy efficiency measures and the use of renewable energy systems in buildings, the ‘Accelerating Zero-Emission Building Sector Ambitions in the MENA region’ project seeks to engage with a range of local industry stakeholders to assess specific existing barriers and address weaknesses in the legal and economic frameworks of the targeted countries through tailored policy modules. Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan were selected as the pilot countries for the project.

According to the firm, the building sector currently accounts for around one third of region’s total energy consumption, driven by economic and population growth, increased urbanisation, and the demand generated by improved living standards. By 2030, this consumption is expected to grow by 40 percent in the building sector alone, and the firm warns that on current trends the ‘lock-in effects’ will hamper regional efforts toward sustainability due to the long life-cycle of buildings.

Ecofys leads project for energy-efficient buildings in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon

Pilot countries

As for the target countries, there have been some promising developments on sustainability at the national level as well as some common frustrations – particularly around the extent, implementation, and enforcement of legislation. In a recent interview, one of the project leads and Managing Consultant at Ecofys, Sven Schimschar, said of the current landscape in Egypt;

“Egypt approved a national energy efficiency action plan for 2012–2015, which aims to raise energy efficiency by five per cent. The framework for energy efficiency, however, remains relatively weak, especially in terms of effective implementation. The challenge posed by implementation is also very apparent in the other countries in the region, with one major obstacle being a shortage of personnel and effective resources for compliance with requirements.”

Fellow project lead and Ecofys’ Managing Consultant Karoline Steinbacher outlined the situation in Jordan and Lebanon. “Jordan enacted a law on renewable energy and energy efficiency, which has been implemented by means of several ordinances. Through its National Building Council, the Jordanian Government has issued regulations on, for instance, insulation, energy efficiency and solar power, and it has published a Green Building Manual. Although these standards are binding, here too it is proving a challenge to implement and monitor them.”

“In Lebanon, meanwhile, the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) 2016–2021 brings together all the country’s energy efficiency ambitions. Our local partners feel that limited progress is being made on implementing the strategy… Although its technical and institutional capacities are stronger than others in the region, overarching challenges in the electricity sector, such as poor supply quality and an uncertain investment climate, are hindering the development of energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.”

Moving forward

Looking ahead, while climate awareness in the region doesn’t seem to be of a particular issue, some of the more common obstacles identified across the target countries by the project to date include the limited access to financing, a lack of knowledge about the benefits of energy efficient technologies among technicians, developers and architects as well as home-owners, and the shortage of resources and capacities for monitoring compliance.

In addition to addressing such issues and raising greater awareness, with the project supported by a range of regional policy dialogues, workshops and shared insights through a dedicated website, there remains broad scope for improvement with respect to heating and cooling systems through existing technologies – cited as one of the most effective levers for reducing building emissions. Moritz Schäfer, a further Ecofys’ Managing Consultant overseeing the project, said;

“Alongside ‘traditional’ solutions like insulation, double or triple glazing and more efficient heating and cooling systems, other measures could also have a major impact… For instance, increasing thermal mass when constructing new buildings can significantly reduce how much cooling they will require, especially when combined with greater use of shading systems. Using more ventilation systems with heat recovery, both for heating and cooling, can also alleviate the energy burden considerably.”

Besides this current project, which will run to the end of the year, Ecofys has had an active presence in the MENA region for some time, having been engaged in facilitating the development of NAMA’s (nationally appropriate mitigation actions) in the UAE and other Gulf countries as well as supporting energy diplomacy. In addition, the consulting firm’s parent company Navigant has been expanding in the region since the launch of its Dubai office in 2010, followed by outlets in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.