Energy efficiency is emerging as one of the most viable options for climate change mitigation in South Asia, where urbanization, economic growth and expanding middle class is resulting in rapidly growing energy demand, which will continue to be fueled largely by fossil fuels. Realizing the fact that fostering energy efficiency is an impediment and not a choice anymore, these countries have started making major efforts to scale up energy efficiency as a part of meeting national goals through their low-carbon roadmaps and to help meet their global commitments through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) targets.
Transforming energy efficiency markets on scale requires addressing several barriers which most developing countries face. One way to leap-frog into scaling up efforts in the energy efficiency area is to learn from others on how to become more energy efficient and adapt and apply those implementation models. It was against this backdrop, that a group of energy practitioners from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka came together in Korea on Feb 26 to March 2 this year, to learn from each other through the South-South Knowledge Exchange Program on Energy Efficiency. Organized by the Korea Energy Agency, in collaboration with the World Bank and with support from the Korea-World Bank Partnership Facility, this week-long training provided a great opportunity for 12 experts from South Asia, along with World Bank energy specialists and practitioners from Korean organizations to learn about energy efficiency policies, business models and financing mechanisms to promote demand-side energy efficiency improvements across different sectors.
This exchange program provided a platform for dissemination, sharing and exchange of knowledge, primarily drawing upon Korea’s extensive leadership in the area of energy efficiency and demand side management. This has been reinforced by robust policies and legislations since 1980, and supported by financial mechanisms, institutional development and increased awareness. Korea’s experience in energy efficiency is even more relevant – it meets 95% of its energy needs through imported resources, contributing almost a quarter of the country’s total imports. Through its energy efficiency and green growth strategies, Korea has been able to reduce its energy intensity in industries and buildings through the application of robust and innovative measures and targets. The knowledge exchange platform provided a chance to the World Bank specialists, country practitioners from South Asia and key players in energy efficiency from Korea to network amongst themselves and understand the challenges and solutions.
During this week, the participants attended a blend of classroom presentations and training in energy efficiency and demand side management at the headquarters of the Korea Energy Agency located in Yongin-si, Gyeounggi-do, about 40 kilometers outside of Seoul – as well as a visited a number of relevant stes in and around Seoul where modern, innovative energy efficiency solutions are put into practice. Leading Korean experts from the Korea Energy Agency, energy saving companies (ESCOs – firms which design, finance and implement energy savings projects) and other experts from Korea, along with the Global Green Growth Institute and the Green Climate Fund, met and discussed on a host of issues – ranging from industrial energy efficiency, energy efficiency in buildings and public facilities (e.g., street lighting) to ESCO and energy financing mechanisms, energy auditing, energy efficiency standards and labelling programs for appliances, building codes as well as financial mechanisms like soft loans and tax incentives to support energy efficiency investments. The participants actively engaged with the trainers to learn more about success factors and how those could be replicated in their respective countries.
Participants learned about the importance of concessional loans for energy efficiency investments. These are provided with an interest rate of 1.5% (below the market rate), up to 10 years tenor and with a grace period from three to seven years, in addition to a tax credit of up to 10%. The mandatory energy auditing introduced in Korea in 2007, targets 3,400 facilities of energy-intensive companies using more than 2,000 ton-oil-equivalent per year. Another topic that impressed the participants was Korea’s ESCO program with its Energy Use Rationalization Fund through which the banks lend (up to USD 18 million per project) to ESCO projects. With 310 registered ESCOs, their market and business in Korea has boomed in recent years, with USD 1.3 billion in loans to ESCOs during 2014 to 2016. The innovative ESCO factoring business model of financial transaction where a business sells its accounts receivable to a third party at a discount in exchange for immediate cash – has been successful in addressing the ESCO liability issues in Korea.
During the visit to Land and Housing “Smartium”, participants saw how Korean government housing policies and programs are supporting development of with buildings and homes with state-of-the-art energy efficient appliances and systems, ranging from intelligent refrigerators to smart dressers to organic waste recycling systems. The Seoul Metropolitan Government showcased a highly energy efficient building where more than 28 percent of the energy used comes from eco-friendly energy sources, like photovoltaic solar panels, solar thermal and geothermal – and the Lotte World Tower – Korea’s tallest building and the 5th tallest in the world, with a very modern, green construction practices have been adopted.
Over the time, the World Bank Group has funded several energy efficiency efforts worldwide, with the Bank’s own resources supplemented by Clean Technology Fund (CTF) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) and other resources. The financing mechanisms included credit lines, risk sharing facilities, dedicated funds, program-for-results (PforR), and development policy loans. One of best case practice in this respect is the proposed new US$300 million PforR-cum-guarantee India Energy Efficiency Scale Up Operation with EESL which should leverage over $1.5 billion of demand side energy efficiency investments across residential and public sectors in this South Asian nation. This knowledge exchange program provided an opportunity for the participants to also share knowledge based on the experience from their own countries in South Asia and engage in active discussions to explore ideas that they could pursue upon their return home. For instance, they learned about the successful story of the largest Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulb distribution program in the world (about 300 million LED bulbs) in India implemented under the ULAJA program by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), the world’s largest public ESCO.
The one-week interaction in Korea added a new page to the successful partnership and cooperation in energy efficiency between the World Bank and the Korea Energy Agency that started over ten years ago. At the end of the one-week training, the participants noted that the program was very rewarding. They were not only content about the level of knowledge they acquired and of which their countries can potentially benefit from, but also that they were able to learn from each other about their accomplishments and challenges, especially given that some of these South Asian nations are in their early stage on the path towards more energy efficient economies.