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Armenia: How Funds Allocated by International Donors to Mitigate Climate Change Are Spent

Tashir: Advertised Energy Efficiency in Half-Empty Buildings

The Ani district of Tashir town in Armenia's Lori Province has been touted as a model of energy efficiency. Here, with the support of donor organizations, an energy-saving project has been implemented. However, there seems to be more publicity surrounding the initiative than actual results.

Tashir, a town in Lori Province, is located 160 km from Yerevan. It is situated 12 km north of the Armenian-Georgian border. The population of the town does not exceed 12,000 residents.

On the right of the town lies the Ani district, featuring 16 similar buildings. In 1990, Georgian neighbors quickly constructed these panel buildings to support the victims of the 1988 earthquake. The neighborhood is sparsely populated, with only 2-3 families living in each building part. In one of the buildings, only two apartments are occupied.

Residents report that many people have left their homes and moved away. Some have relocated to the Russian Federation, while others have moved to Yerevan or other districts in Tashir. Some apartments are now rented out to families who have been forcibly relocated from Artsakh.

The Ani district of Tashir town has become energy efficient under the "De-risking and Scaling-up Investment in Energy Efficient Building Retrofits" project, which started in 2017 and was supposed to be completed in 2023. However, for some reason, the project has not been completed and will continue until 2026.

The Green Climate Fund provided $20 million for its implementation. The project, however, is much larger and was co-financed by several entities: The UNDP contributed $1,420,000, Yerevan Municipality provided $8 million, the Government of Armenia added $400,000, and the European Investment Bank contributed $86,250,000. The total budget amounted to $116 million.

The "De-risking and Scaling-up Investment in Energy Efficient Building Retrofits" project aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Armenia's existing building stock, ensuring the benefits of sustainable development.

In response to our inquiry, Armenia's Ministry of Environment stated that since the start of the project in 2017, energy efficiency measures for multi-apartment residential and public buildings have been co-financed in nineteen communities across Armenia.

Measures to increase the energy efficiency of buildings include:

  • Thermal insulation of walls
  • Roof insulation
  • Basement insulation
  • Replacement of exterior windows and doors
  • Modernization of the lighting system
  • Modernization of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems
  • Installation of a solar photovoltaic system
  • Installation of a solar water heating system

For a full energy efficiency retrofit, usually, all of the above-mentioned measures are implemented. In the case of a partial retrofit, a combination of selected measures from the list is used.

In response to our request, the Ministry of Environment provided the addresses of the buildings and structures where the project was fully or partially implemented. According to that list, in 2020, the project aimed at energy-efficient modernization in four buildings of the Ani district was implemented with all components. In another six buildings, the project was partially implemented.

We visited the Ani district to understand how effective the building energy efficiency project has been. As a result, we found that at least three of the eight planned activities in the four beneficiary buildings of the Ani district project (where the project was supposed to be fully implemented) were not carried out. Specifically, the basements of the buildings were not thermally insulated, and solar photovoltaic and water heating systems were not installed.

However, the walls were insulated, new windows and doors were installed in the entrances, the roofs were repaired and insulated, and a new lighting system was installed.

Gayane Adamyan, a resident of the 9th apartment in the 2nd building of Ani district, said her family lives on the first floor and that thermal insulation of the basement would significantly warm up their apartment, as well as other first-floor apartments. "This year we organized heating with electricity; before that, we used a wood stove. I can't tell the difference compared to previous years. We would like them to repair and insulate the basement as well. The first floors would be warmer because of that, but they didn't do the basement, even though when they came initially, they said they would," said Adamyan.

Sevada Sargsyan, adviser to the head of the Tashir community, explained the non-implementation of basement thermal insulation in terms of priorities. "The community, as the client, announced a design competition. As a result, the licensed company drew up the project, and it was deemed inappropriate to carry out thermal insulation for the basement. This project was approved in several circles and was eventually approved by the Government. Therefore, in this regard, neither the community nor the designer has any gaps. It is possible that we will insulate the basements next. At this stage, we prioritized changing the roof of one building instead of insulating the basements of two others because the cost is almost the same," said Sargsyan.

Gayane Adamyan's neighbor from the 3rd floor added, "We paid 5-6 thousand drams less every month this winter compared to last year. We feel a change, but they didn't do the cosmetic repairs inside the entrance. They came to see what should be done, but they didn't do it. However, they did work on the building next door."

For each of the buildings in the Ani district that were fully energy efficient, 3.5 million drams were allocated from the Green Climate Fund, which is about 20% of the total budget aimed at the energy efficiency of that building. The rest was invested by the municipality.

In the buildings that partially participated in the project, the roofs were repaired, solar panels were installed in some, and the entrance doors and windows were replaced. Energy efficiency measures have yet to be implemented in several buildings.

The project implemented in Tashir has recently been advertised by the Ministry of Environment on its social media pages as an example of achieving more than 30 percent energy savings. 

Within the framework of the project, parts of buildings where only 2 apartments were inhabited were thermally insulated. However, the energy passport reports of buildings in the Ani district indicate that all buildings have 4 floors, 1 entrance, a total area of 897 square meters, 8 apartments, and 28 residents.

"We have 16 buildings in the Ani district, which are half inhabited, with around 500-600 people. From the beginning, our priority was the thermal insulation of the district. It doesn't matter how many people live there; this could stimulate the population of the district. Perhaps people will return to live there or rent the houses," says Sevada Sargsyan.

Kindergarten Principals Unaware of Their Participation in the Energy Efficiency Project

A large number of kindergartens in Yerevan are included in the list where partial energy efficiency measures have been implemented. We visited several kindergartens where the largest sums were spent. Armine Baghdasaryan, the director of Kindergarten No. 50 at Norashen 47/2, noted that their school has been completely renovated, but the energy efficiency project has not yet been implemented. Specialists from the UN office came, examined, studied, and left. According to her information, the project is supposed to be implemented in the future.

To partially increase the energy efficiency of this kindergarten, the Ministry of Environment reported that 29.5 million drams were spent from the funds of the Green Climate Fund.

Kindergarten No. 58, located at 27/2 Davtashen 1st district, was renovated in 2021-22. Around 15 million drams have been invested here for energy efficiency measures. Acting director Lilit Varazhyan, who has been in this position for several months, mentioned that even if some measures were implemented, she was not aware of it.

Kindergarten No. 143, located at 100 Chekhov St., was renovated in 2022-23. Director Ruzanna Danielyan told us in a telephone conversation that the other day they were visited by the municipality regarding this matter. They checked how the project could be implemented, but no actions have been taken yet.

Sona Shamakhyan, the director of Kindergarten No. 160, located at Hasratyan 1, confirmed that LED lamps were installed, partial wall insulation was done, and the roof was repaired and insulated. 12.4 million drams were spent here.

Another four kindergartens included in the list are currently under renovation, and their opening is planned for September.

Schools and Cultural Centers: Progress and Challenges in Energy Efficiency Measures

As part of the "De-risking and Scaling-up Investment in Energy Efficient Building Retrofits" project, energy efficiency measures were conducted in 54 public buildings, including seven schools. The highest amount was allocated to the secondary school of Hovtashat village in Ararat marz, totaling 69 million drams. Since 2021, the school has been undergoing major repairs, with a total budget of 1.8 billion drams.

In a conversation with us, the school's director, Hasmik Yegoryan, mentioned that according to the initial deadline, the school was supposed to be handed over in October 2023. However, construction is still ongoing, with a new promised completion date of December 24, 2024. Yet, Yegoryan remains skeptical about meeting this deadline. She explained that since 2021, the school has been divided into two parts: primary school students attend the school in Sipanik village, Ararat marz, while students from the 5th grade onwards attend the school in Gai village, Armavir marz.

The director highlighted numerous challenges arising during the organization of this process, as they have to commute between schools every day to ensure the continuity of the educational process.

"I saw in the school project that some actions aimed at the energy efficiency of the building are planned, such as thermal insulation of the walls, but I cannot provide further information and assessment because the building is not yet constructed," says the director.

The second public building that received significant funding is the "Youth Creative Center" No. 3 in Erebuni. Approximately 47 million drams were allocated to this center.

Ruben Khnkoyan, the center's director, mentioned that the construction began in 2017 and lasted for one year and three months. As part of the project, the lighting has been upgraded, and the consumption of gas and electricity has been significantly reduced.

"The entire building is thermally insulated, which ensures warmth in winter and coolness in summer. While the roof was partially thermally insulated, its effectiveness is limited. When we go up to the third floor, we notice heat loss," explains the director.

Khnkoyan further states that before the renovation, only 1,500 square meters of the center area were heated, and there were six boilers in operation. Now, with the entire 6,500 square meters of the building heated using three boilers, the gas consumption remains almost the same.

In February 2016, before the building renovation, the center's gas expenditure was 562,000 AMD, and in February of the current year, it was 582,000 AMD. The cost of electricity decreased by about 42%. In February 2016 it was 345,000 drams, and for the same month this year, it was 198,000 drams.

"The installed equipment is of very high quality; until now, we have not had to change a single light. However, despite their luxurious name, 'Lamborghini,' we constantly have to repair the boilers. While they are economical, starting from the second year, they regularly develop problems, and we have to repair them with our own funds," says Ruben Khnkoyan.

Although thermal insulation of the basement of the building and installation of solar plants are planned in the case of full implementation of the project, the director mentions that these measures were not implemented because they were not included in the project plan.

Buildings where the project has been completed have posted signs or energy efficiency certificates. However, these signs were missing in the kindergartens we visited. A special map of the projects carried out on the mershenq.am website, created within the framework of the project, shows that 50 buildings have become energy efficient, work in 41 buildings is still in progress, and 15 are on the planned list.

Although the energy efficiency project for buildings is implemented by the Ministry of Environment, it is coordinated by UNDP. While it was not possible to speak directly with its coordinator, Vahram Jalalyan, he expressed his willingness to answer questions in writing. You can read his explanations and answers to our questions in full here.

Coping with Climate Change: Armenia's Efforts and Initiatives

Armenia ratified the Paris Agreement regulating the implementation and procedures of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2017.

The Ministry of Environment has spearheaded 13 projects aimed at mitigating climate change since 2018, with 5 completed and the remainder ongoing. Funding for these projects, totaling over $35 million, has been sourced from international organizations, co-financed by the Armenian government, international banks, and other entities.

The three main financiers are prominent international organizations:

  1. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, providing $29 million for five projects.
  2. The Adaptation Fund of the UNFCCC, contributing approximately $4 million (4,218,600) for three projects.
  3. The Global Ecological Fund (GEF), allocating around $2 million (1,967,202) for three projects.

Additionally, two projects received funding from other donors: the "EU4Climate" project, supported by €930,365 from the European Union, and the "Support for investments in Armenia at the national level to achieve resilience to climate risks" project, funded by $900,000 from the Japanese government and $50,000 from UNDP, with co-financing.

While most of the grants aimed at addressing climate change focused on developing documents, legislative acts, strategies, or aligning Armenia's legislation with conventions, some were dedicated to specific reports. For example, the preparation of Armenia's third two-year progress report under the UNFCCC was funded with $352,000 from the Global Ecological Fund.

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բարև Ձեզ իսկ կարող է հետաքննություն անեք նորակառույց շենքերի ուշացնելու դեպքով, օրինակ նայեք Գոգոլ Պլազայի շենքը որը պետք է հանձվներ շահագործման 2022թ բայց մինչև հիմա ավարտին չի հասել, իսկ ըստ սկզբնական նախագծի 12 հարկ է եղել բայց հետո հրաշալի կերպով դարձել է 16

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