Covenant of Mayors
  Covenant Quarterly Newsletter July - August 2012  
Reaping the benefits of energy efficiency
{{{Interview with Andres Jaadla, Mayor of Rakvere, Estonia}}} After signing the Covenant of Mayors in January 2009, Rakevere became the first city in Estonia to take the political commitment to adopt a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) in order to meet EU climate and energy targets. This SEAP, which fostered the emergence of an energy efficiency movement in the city, points to six priority lines of action, including district heating, energy efficiency in buildings, water management, urban transport, street lighting and city planning. In this exclusive interview with the Covenant of Mayors Office, Mayor Andres Jaadla shares some elements of this sustainable energy roadmap and presents a few of the city’s achievements so far.

What is your vision for the future of Rakvere ? How would you like your city to look like in 2020 and how do you think will your Covenant of Mayors commitments help you progress towards this direction ?

I see Rakvere emerging as a green European city, placing particular emphasis on energy efficiency in buildings. We are determined to become Estonia’s pioneer in that regard, championing our far-reaching vision of smart and efficient energy use.

Our Sustainable Energy Action Plan charts six main lines of action for the city, with the purpose of meeting the commitments taken with the Covenant of Mayors and we consider these as our long-term guiding principles.

One of our utmost priorities is to change Rakvere’s heating system. Indeed, we would like to introduce district heating and replace fossil fuel use by bio fuels. Heat consumption is a crucial issue to address, energy efficiency needs to be encouraged and buildings ought to be properly renovated and insulated.

Other important aspects are water consumption, urban transport and street lightning, where our resources need to be used responsibly and efficiently. City planning overall should take account of sustainable development trends and contemplate different alternatives.

Long-term visions are a key component of Sustainable Energy Action Plans, but short-term measures and low hanging fruits are also important elements to take into consideration. Do you have some recent success stories to share in this respect ?

When it comes to city planning, short term activities derive directly from long term goals. And the implementation of those goals is mostly dependent on how the people – ie, the citizens – business leaders and city officials are willing to go along with the plans. In this sense, one of the most crucial contributors to change is the sharing of information.

The uptake of energy efficiency is somewhat no longer a matter of choice. With energy prices going up each year, every saved watt is positively influencing our wallet and especially saving CO2, thus shaping the future of our planet. It is however very hard to change people’s mind-sets with environment-protection messages, because citizens tend to be more concerned with everyday life problems. It is thus important to remind people of the basic principles of efficiency and savings, and then I believe, we will achieve the desired results.

I can nonetheless already share a few examples of successful energy efficiency projects that we have carried out so far and which testify to the wide-ranging impact of building renovation.

By way of example, one of the city’s music schools, which was transformed into and energy-efficient building, is now delivering considerable savings in terms of energy costs. Indeed, heat use between 2008 and 2011 has almost been cut in half !

At the moment, another significant undertaking in Rakvere is the development of a so-called "Smart House/Intelligent Building Competence Centre” where it will be possible to test innovative energy efficiency solutions through an interactive method. Within this framework, a 1900 m² historic bank building dating back to 1935 will be turned into a smart house where intelligent solutions will provide and guarantee energy efficiency savings. With this initiative, Rakvere intends to come up with a range of measures and concepts encouraging the transition to sustainable energy.

Have you already measured the economic windfalls and quality of life improvements resulting from the implementation of these preliminary initiatives ?

In 2009, Rakvere’s SEAP was put together on the basis of data collected in 2008, featuring among the first plans to be submitted to the Covenant of Mayors Office.

At the beginning of 2012, we conducted an analysis to measure the economic benefits, lifestyle improvements and CO2 savings achieved over the past two years since the adoption of the SEAP. The conclusion was that the Covenant of Mayors has given Rakvere a good basis to kick-start innovative and environmentally-friendly projects. Rakvere notably features among the cities having seized the opportunity of complying with national CO2 quotas to transform its municipal buildings, schools and kindergartens into energy efficient structures. Over the last three years, most of the buildings have been renovated or will be in the near future.

The planned renovation of one of our kindergartens for example, which could now be categorised as a high-energy consuming building, dating back to 1988, should allow to divide by 6 the current energy bill. The tasks to be undertaken are not small : the renovations will be very thorough, including a series of amendments to the ground plan to optimize the space use, insulation of walls, and the use of mechanical ventilation throughout the building. It will also be designed to use renewable energy sources, namely solar power and geothermal heating.

Rakvere regularly measures its CO2 emission levels and seeks to achieve savings accordingly. Economic gains should be measurable in the city budget over the next years. In other domains, such as citizen awareness, changes are already apparent as we start to notice that users of refurbished buildings are increasingly concerned about energy efficiency issues.

Another good example is that of Rakvere’s heating system, as we are going to switch heat production from gas to wood chips. The investments will be completed by the end of 2012 and by the years 2013-2014 the approximate CO2 savings should reach 8000 tonnes per year.

    >> Covenant Monthly Newsletter July - August 2012 <<
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  The sole responsibility for the content of this newsletter lies with the Covenant of Mayors Office. It does not necessary reflect the opinion of the European Union. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. The Covenant of Mayors was set up with financial support of the European Commission and consists of five associations of European local authorities: Energy Cities, Climate Alliance, Eurocities, CEMR, and Fedarene.

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