30 June 2022 FAO and UNDP Pave the Way Towards Sustainable Facilities and Solar Energy installations in Decentralised Offices

Since 2016, FAO’s Corporate Environmental Responsibility team (CER) of the Infrastructure Service (CSLI) has collaborated with UNDP’s Green Energy team in Copenhagen to bring energy efficiency and low carbon solutions to FAO facilities and operations around the world. Today, there are 6 solar photovoltaic systems in FAO Nepal, Djibouti, Uganda, Mauritania, Ghana, and Jordan offices that are a direct result of the teamwork between the two agencies. This move towards renewables has allowed the Logistics Service Division (CSL) of FAO to decrease the Organization’s reliance on fossil fuels and lower the Organization’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Both agencies have pledged to substantially reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with the implementation of environmental policies and strategies. The Greening UNDP Moonshot was launched in 2019 and the FAO Corporate Environmental Responsibility Strategy 2020-2030 in 2021.  With Moonshot, UNDP pledges to reduce its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions 25 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030. In a similar vein, FAO’s CER Strategy aims to reduce the Organization’s emissions by 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2018 levels.

The first collaboration undertaken by the two agencies relates to the installation of a Solar PV system in the UN House in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. This solar project, conceptualized in 2016 and inaugurated in 2018 produces around 196,000 kWh annually, which is the approximate yearly electricity consumption of 1,410 Nepali citizens, resulting in $26,300 USD in savings each year. In recent years, additional solar PV installations have taken place in Djibouti, Mauritania, Uganda, Ghana, with an additional installation in Jordan set to be finalized by mid-2022.

In fact, since their installation in 2019 and 2020 the solar PV systems for Ghana, Uganda and Mauritania have amounted to a reduction of 70 tonnes of CO2e, saving the Organization $50 000 USD in energy costs. Both agencies are extremely proud of the arduous work being done towards sustainability, with Rodrigo de Lapuerta —FAO’s Director for the Logistic Services Division— describing these accomplishments as: “an excellent example of walking the talk with concrete UN collaboration results. Good to see FAO in the driving seat on the greening agenda and implementing our Corporate Environmental Strategy 2020-30 with actions around the globe.”

The collaboration has given credit to the idea that big things indeed have small beginnings. In fact, this work between UNDP’s Green Energy Team and the FAO’s CER team started due to a chance encounter in Rome in 2016 during an Issue Management Group (IMG) meeting on Environmental Sustainability Management. FAO’s Head of the Infrastructure Service Tina Mittendorf, and UNDP’s Sustainability Coordinator Anne Fernquist discussed the excellent energy efficiency services provided by UNDP’s Green Energy Team. This led to the beginning of what would prove to be fruitful endeavour. Indeed, Tina Mittendorf has stated that “the excellent work being done with the Green Energy team of UNDP has proven to be one of our best examples of efficient collaboration between UN Agencies.”

UNDP’s Green Energy Team in Copenhagen has been key to the advancements in energy efficiency in FAO buildings around the world. Led by ICT and green energy experts Gerald Demeules and Shathiso Nyathi, the Green Energy Team has been an active participant in FAO’s clean energy transition. As expressed by Gerald Demeules, Chief of Smart Infrastructure Service Unit at UNDP, “The FAO-UNDP partnership shows that “walking the talk” is not just an empty slogan but a call to real action on SDGs. This collaboration is a perfect example of our vision: create Smart Facilities, build local capacity, inspire a movement, in the pursuit of social, economic development and a sustainable livelihood for all.”

In fact, Shathiso Nyathi, UNDP’s Global ICT & Green Energy Specialist stated, “the old adage “a chain is as strong as its weakest link” cannot be more relevant than in this day and age where sustainability is a “must achieve.” It underscores the need for strong collaboration where organizations can tap into each other’s strengths. On the energy front, our collaboration is proving to be the panacea worthy emulating by other UN organizations. We have come a long way, and at this pace, we are bound to make far reaching contributions to the achievement of SDGs.”

Moreover, UNDP has helped FAO colleagues in regions affected by power cuts to achieve higher energy stability and be able to do their work effectively. In addition, thanks to the LTAs (Long Term Agreements) UNDP has in place with specialized companies that supply small solar backup systems, teleworking FAO staff in Sierra Leone were able to install these in their homes to avoid disruptions caused by power cuts. Additionally, a similar project is underway for the colleagues in the Congo office. These concrete results echo the sentiments of Sylvain St-Pierre, UNDP Chief Information Officer, greening the blue can be achieved so much faster through partnership. UNDP’s and FAO’s collaboration to install #Future Smart infrastructure and green solutions on FAO premises around the world is a tangible example of what can be achieved when we leverage the strengths and expertise of our individual agencies to drive our collective goals and strive for a greener planet.”

Indeed, UNDP’s Green Energy team has aided FAO’s path towards renewable sources of energy by designing, supplying, installing, and commissioning solar photovoltaic systems and energy storage solutions in respective locations as well as numerous other services including technical advisory, sourcing of materials, and the installation of energy meters. Through a 7 step process, engineers from both teams work together to determine the best solar power solutions for the energy needs of each location.

Namely, UNDP engineer Giacomo Gallina and FAO engineer Giulia Cavo work in such close collaboration and coordination that it often seems like they are part of the same team despite being employed by different UN agencies. Giulia expressed her gratitude towards the UNDP Green Energy team by saying the following, "the support, expertise, and reliability of UNDP’s Green Team have been vital to FAO and helped us pave the way towards our Corporate Environmental Responsibility Strategy 2020-2030.”

Recently the two agencies signed an agreement solidifying their mutual goals and efforts. This is a result of the years of synchronicity between the two agencies in matters of environmental stewardship, greenhouse gas emission reductions, and sustainable facility management. Indeed, in 2021 UNDP and FAO entered a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Energy Solutions for FAO’s Decentralised offices, which will facilitate interagency collaboration in the future installation of Solar PV systems in FAO facilities. It is expected that the two teams will be able to collaborate with more ease thanks to this agreement. This new facet of the partnership between UNDP and FAO is set to further FAO’s journey towards renewables and energy self-sufficiency.

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