Setting Bolivia on the path toward energy efficiency

La Paz NIRAS Development Consulting

Following a successful initial phase, NIRAS IP Consult is continuing its work to increase renewable energy and enhance energy efficiency in Bolivia through organisational cooperation, training and educational measures in the field.

June 29, 2022
  • SDG: #7, #4, #13
  • SECTORS: Development Consulting, Energy
  • COUNTRIES: Bolivia
  • CLIENT: the Ministry of Energy, Bolivia

As a country whose primary energy demand is 95.8% dependent on fossil fuels, Bolivia's current energy profile is neither environmentally sustainable nor sensible in terms of energy security. Recognising this, the Latin American nation has set itself on a path to diversify its energy production with renewables and accelerate its energy efficiency efforts.

Launched in 2016, the GIZ Renewable Energies Programme (PEERR) is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and executed in partnership with the Vice-Ministry for Electricity and Alternative Energies (VMEEA). With the original overall goal of promoting renewable energy within Bolivia, PEERR was extended in 2017 to include the optimisation of energy efficiency.

PEERR is made up of four components, of which NIRAS is contracted to carry out two, focusing on implementing energy efficiency measures, capacity development, and training and knowledge management. Today, a team of four engineers carry out the main activities with a small pool of non-key experts. The core team - Patricia Durán, Vivian Zamora, Carlos Ormachea, and Team Leader Rolf Sielfeld - is composed of different skills and expertise that, through the years, has been able to consolidate a human and professional relationship delivering excellent results in the project indicators. 

Navigating the contingency in Bolivia was quite tricky. At the outset, we had a government headed by Evo Morales till 2019, followed by the centre-right Social Democratic Movement that only lasted one year before elections were called, and the leftwing Movement for Socialism came into power. Each change brought a different approach to energy politics, and managing the project within this continuously shifting political climate was a big challenge. But as I said, we have a great team and delivered successfully all of our products.

Rolf Sielfeld, PEERR Team Leader

The core PEERR project team. Left to right: Patricia Durán, Rolf Sielfeld, Vivian Zamora and Carlos Ormachea

Rolf has only positive things to say about the team and their collaboration: "We have a great team and team spirit. I believe we have developed a culture of efficiency and effectiveness in our work, always looking for ways to add value with our energy efficiency and capacity building consultancy."

At the outset of their assignment, energy efficiency was barely an area of interest within the Ministry of Energy, the team's counterpart and partner within the Bolivian government. "Nothing had been done on the topic of energy efficiency from the government's side. It wasn't an issue within energy politics. So, first things first, we made an extensive analysis to find out where to begin. Since the Ministry didn't have a working area specialised in energy efficiency, it was very complicated to start talking about how we could develop energy efficiency in Bolivia," explains Rolf.

After identifying gaps and pinpointing their starting point, the next steps involved a thorough stakeholder analysis and the development of annual operational plans in collaboration with Ministry officials. This also involved the demanding task of carving out a dedicated energy efficiency unit within the Ministry—laying the foundations and a regulatory framework for activities to unfold under PEERR.

Unveiling the biggest household energy consumers

As part of the activities under the energy framework, an extensive study was carried out within the four municipalities of La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, on the characterisation of electricity consumption in the residential sector, accomplished by mapping out and analysing the behaviours of households. The study focused on one group of commonly owned electrical appliances: equipment for heating water, food preservation, audio-visual communication, and lighting – all of which accounts for 82% of total consumption in the area. 

From the study, it was possible to discern the different ways power demand is affected by the various household appliances, with water heating equipment, namely electric showers, being the most significant energy "sinner" by far. The data produced by the study offers a valuable tool for policy-makers and planners looking to optimise energy efficiency as part of the country's energy policy. Moreover, potential economic and environmental benefits obtained through policies can be showcased to push the energy agenda forward.

The main areas for action were identified as: policies that promote substitutions of energy sources and the use of massification of distributed generation to boost solar energy use in high-consumption households. Implementing energy substitution measures alongside more efficient equipment has the potential to reduce electricity consumption by about 485 million kWh per year – or the equivalent of the average annual energy use of more than 300.000 households across the four municipalities. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, reductions of that size would mean a decrease of 223.000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – the equivalent of more than 25.000 households' energy use for one year.

PEERR is made up of four components:

1) Planning and legal framework for renewable energy

2) Project development and grid integration of renewable energy

3) Support implementation of energy efficiency measures

4) Training and knowledge management

NIRAS is responsible for components 3 and 4.

Monitoring public buildings' energy performance

In further efforts to promote the goal of energy efficiency optimisation, the team undertook the massive task of collecting data on every single public building within the four cities.

After about two years of "door-to-door" data collection, the team amassed information about more than 4000 buildings – all of which have been fed into a web platform: "This data was collected in the streets, not digitally, but old school, involving the collection of individual identifier numbers or 'fingerprints' from the buildings' electricity grid," says Rolf. “All of these numbers are now registered with the AETN Bolivia (Autoridad de Fiscalización de Electricidad y Tecnología Nuclear), linking energy consumption with each building.”

A still from a RMRV promotional video, visualising information on buildings' energy consumption being fed into the web tool

The web platform called the Registration, Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (RMRV) tool is an online tool designed to provide information on public buildings' energy and environmental performance. It is a benchmarking system that helps the state better manage its assets whilst providing public institutions with an energy management tool to analyse and review their energy performances. "You can not only promote energy efficiency in the operation of public buildings but can also help the government focus their policies better," says Rolf.

With the project end date scheduled for October this year, the team is well ahead of schedule. “We are facing the final part of our project and have already completed our indicators. So now we are working on additional activities to add value to our client.”

To learn more about this programme

Get in touch

Laura Schmid

Laura Schmid

Project Manager

København, Denmark

+45 4299 5309

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