Last month I visited Montenegro’s old capital, beautiful Cetinje, nestled in the mountains, on the way to the coast. It has enormous tourism potential.
I was lucky to get a guided tour from Cetinje’s mayor, who explained its rich history and showed me some of its lovely architecture. Many of the buildings are former embassies.
Cetinje does, however, face a few challenges:
Unemployment: with an unemployment rate of 18 percent, many of the town’s inhabitants are struggling
Energy efficiency: while pretty, many of the old buildings in Cetinje are drafty, leaky, and lose far too much to heat
Fulfilling its tourism potential: with all the tourists that visit Montenegro’s coast (and neighbouring Croatia’s coast, just a couple of hours away), you’d think more would visit Cetinje. But the Mayor recognizes that some work needs to be done to make the town a real tourist destination.
In the face of these challenges, UNDP in Montenegro is working with local partners to revitalize the city’s economy through reconstructing the city’s cultural heritage, but with energy efficiency in mind.
In other words: what if we were to train some of the people who are unemployed to do energy efficiency retrofitting as part of a massive rehabilitation of the old, beautiful buildings in the town?
And what if that same idea is applied to houses that are “illegal” – that is, were built without planning permission (as many thousands of homes in Montenegro are)?
Could energy efficiency result in financial savings on the energy bills that families can use to pay for legalization?
If done correctly, the office figured, this could lead to
More energy efficiency
Here’s how it works:
Our calculations showed that an investment of 100,000 euros in retrofitting buildings under cultural heritage protection would result in 20,000 euros annual savings on energy bills, and a reduction of 30 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
We tested out our theory with the Cetinje Music Academy, a beautiful, but somewhat run-down building, which previously housed the UK Embassy.
In addition to energy savings, the project created 10 jobs for unemployed people (who also received training and new skills).
Of course, this is just a start. But we demonstrated that this is possible, and we now want to scale up.
We’re looking to replicate what we did for the Music Academy to 40 other buildings of cultural significance, including the municipal building (have a look around).
This should have a great multiplier effect on employment and energy savings (See: Connecting energy efficiency and history). Next up is the city’s hospital.
Illegal housing and energy efficiency
The project team also asked: what if that same idea were applied to houses built without planning permission (with many families simply unable to pay to legalize their homes)?
How does it work?
A family retrofits their home to be energy efficient, and gets a smaller energy bill
Savings are used to pay for the cost of legalizing their home, and getting a loan for energy efficiency
A very important point: the scheme is designed in a way that the family does not pay any extra money the month after the retrofit, so the solution is cost-neutral
And again, everyone wins: families get a legal title to their home, local authorities start collecting real estate taxes (and reinvesting them in the community), architects, energy auditors and construction companies have a whole new market segment for work, and the country overall saves on its energy consumption.
I believe that our best development solutions take this multidimensional approach (as I have discussed before – See: Good for development: Energy efficient buildings).
What are some projects that you know about that combined various development challenges in a creative way?