Experts: “Alternative energy becomes cheaper”

Experts of the National ecology center of Ukraine and an EU-funded project “Switch on the sun – live comfortably” Yuriy Urbansky (executive director) and energy assistant Maksym Babayev shared their considerations on solar energy perspectives both in the EU and Ukraine.  

Yuriy Urbansky, Executive Director at the National ecology center of Ukraine and an expert of the EU-funded project “Switch on the sun – live comfortably”
Yuriy Urbansky, Executive Director at the National ecology center of Ukraine and an expert of the EU-funded project “Switch on the sun – live comfortably”

On conditions of solar energy success. Obviously, southward there are more convenient conditions for solar energy generation that northward, but there is no critical dependency on geographical factor. For instance, Germany is situated north of Ukraine and generates solar energy actively and successfully. We should rather speak about other factors of success in this regard. In Ukraine, project “Switch on the sun, live comfortably!” is implemented in three Ukrainian towns: Pogrebysche (Vinnytska oblast), Manevychi (Volynska oblast) and Tatarbunary (Odes’ka oblast). In a most successful way, solar energy is being implemented in northern Manevychi. There is no gas in that district, and local authorities regard this fact as their luck, since they do not depend on gas supply and prices on gas. Authorities of Manevychi have always supported similar initiatives, and before the start of our project they actively implemented energy saving technologies, invested money, searched for alternative ways of heating etc. In the framework of our project, so far one searches for a possibility of installing solar panels on correctional institutions, which will provide their inhabitants with hot water.  Thus, solar energy could be used everywhere, where there are enough incentives for its generation.

On people’s motivation to switch to alternative energy sources. Switch to solar collectors requires a certain amount of money that is going to be recovered not at once. Taking into account the knock-down prices on energy resources in Ukraine, such expenses are not economically justified for citizens. Advanced prices could become serious stimuli for switch to alternative energy resources. Effectual motivation could also be a result of problematic energy supply or limitations of energy consumption such as electrical grids’ weakness in certain areas.

On stimulating the alternative energy sources’ development. While travelling across Europe, one could not miss huge windmills and big territories under solar collectors. Ambitious projects on windmills construction occur in Ukraine as well, for instance, in Mykolayivska or Kryvorizka districts.In the framework of national support policy of renewable energy sources’ development, a so-called “green tariff” was adopted in Ukraine a couple of years ago. This is a Europe-wide mechanism that helps to stimulate the renewable energy sources’ development. According to it, energy that was generated from the alternative sources for a certain period of time costs more than that generated from traditional sources.

On European experience of solar energy usage. Usage and development of alternative energy sources is a priority for the EU. For instance, Germany is a champion of solar energy generation. Besides, half of these facilities reside in private hands: citizens install solar collectors and sell the rest of the energy to electricity grid at high-price (according to the green tariff). As early as 1970th, wind cooperatives began to be established in Denmark; the Danes founded wind stations and then sell the energy to the electricity grids. Thus, state not only allocates money to constructing facilities but also engage citizens and private business in developing the renewable energy sources.

On development of renewable energy sources in newly-joined East-European EU member states. The EU allocates money to new energy facilities’ construction and ambitious energy saving programs. It could easily be seen by the example of Hungary. Around 10 years ago, after crossing an Austrian-Hungarian border, a huge amount of windmills on the Austrian side caught the eye. This year, whole Western side of Hungary appears to be build-up with windmills just as on its neighbor‘s side.

Maksym Babayev, Energy Assistant
Maksym Babayev, Energy Assistant

On perspectives of alternative energy resources’ development in Ukraine. Traditional energy resources are getting more and more expensive, while alternative energy resources become cheaper. In a couple of years, prices become equal, and this issue becomes rather a matter of a personal choice of each particular person than an economic factor. With our project, we try to stimulate people’s will to make a conscious choice in favor of renewable energy.

On difficulties of switch to renewable energy sources in Ukraine. Shortcomings of Ukrainian legal framework in this regard could be illustrated on the following example. Government agencies’ budget is reconsidered annually. If optimization of building is conducted and as a result expenses on heating are shortened, next year the budget will be reduced respectively. At the same time, expenditures in modernization are going to be covered in a couple of years. That is why there is no possibility to return the invested money, and that makes such projects unattractive for private investors.

On affordability of solar collector. Our project aims at equipping people with information and technologies that they can use for shortening their energy consumption by means of solar energy usage and insulation of buildings. Minimal set of materials necessary for solar collector construction together with a price for installation last year cost around ₴ 4 000. The same ready for use collector in a shop costs two or three times more expensive. We teach people to make solar batteries by themselves, since all the necessary materials are available and its constructing is a pretty simple affair. Such collector either covers electricity need totally or at least reduces traditional energy resources significantly. Moreover, it is of current interest not only for private houses but for town dwellers as well, since solar batteries panels could be installed both on the roof and on the walls.

On participation in the EU Sustainable Energy Week. In the framework of participation in the EU Sustainable Energy Week, we are going to present the visitors a solar collector and show how to install it during a traditional small training. Besides, we present a small demonstrational collector that shows how the solar energy is generated. Moreover, we are going to conduct a round table on energy saving issues discussing in particular participation of local authorities in energy saving projects.

In 2011, a four-year EU-funded project “Switch on the sun – live comfortably” which is implemented in Ukraine and Georgia has started. A project is implemented by the International network of women’s organisations “Woman in Europe for a Common Future” (WECF) together with partners in Ukraine: National ecological centre of Ukraine, Tatarbunarska regional NGO “Vidrodjennya” and State youth organization “Ecoclub”. The project aims at popularizing solar energy and reducing energy dependency by means of buildings insulation and implementation of energy saving methods.