Keep calm and save energy – expert advice for Ukrainians

Now that Ukraine has abandoned its wasteful budget mechanism for energy, Ukrainians are more motivated than ever to reduce their energy consumption. Grants, concessional loans, and small measures taken at home and at the office will help Ukrainians withstand the new energy tariffs.

We are now saving up to 50% on our heating bills with installed meters. Our homeowners association applied for the government-led “warm loans” programme last year, and got back 47% of what it spent on thermo-modernisation,” says Vasyl Rudnitskyi, head of the “Avtotransportnyk-2” homeowners association in Kyiv. “We prepared a proposal for the thermo-modernisation project and turned to the bank for a government loan. The state provides the Oschadbank and Ukrgasbank banks with money to cover a part of the principal of loans for energy efficiency measures.”

After all the work was completed, “Avtotransportnyk-2” submitted a report to the local office of Oschadbank, which in turn covered a part of the costs of materials. In other words, the association got a loan of 150 thousand hryvnias, but paid back just 114 thousand hryvnias. Moreover, Rudnytskyi expects to get an additional 30% of the costs covered under a municipal budget programme.

The homeowners association used the loan to update heating units and install a weather corrector, a sensor that regulates the amount of heat provided to the building depending on the outside temperature.

Andriy Chubyk, executive director of the “Strategy XXI” centre for global studies, says that people should strive to reduce consumption, rather than to save on tariffs. Energy saving should be the ultimate goal for all consumers, whether households or businesses. These efforts will prevent consumers from being drastically affected by tariff increases.

It is important to monitor new technology developments. This mainly applies to businesses, which have more opportunities to apply know-how and learn about energy efficiency from their counterparts, especially abroad,” says Chubyk.

A company may involve an external energy auditor or even create an internal position responsible for energy consumption analysis. This can help businesses understand their energy consumption patterns and develop concrete options for resource optimisation.

Additionally, energy saving lamps, motion sensors, and switching computer equipment to energy saving mode, are all methods of reducing energy consumption. When combined, these simple solutions can lead to significant energy saving. Individual households can also benefit from these tips.

International donors provide concessional loans and grants on energy efficiency in Ukraine. Among the biggest projects are EU-funded Nefko, E5P fund, IQ Energy, and the EU/UNDP project “Community-based approach to local development”.

For instance, the E5P fund provides loans and grants for municipalities, whereas IQ Energy gives grants to individual homeowners, groups of homeowners, and homeowners associations.

Homeowners associations can also look to local authorities for help with house and infrastructure modernisation. Several Ukrainian towns, such as Slavuta, have established revolving funds to provide loans on energy efficiency after seeing the high return on previous loans.

Many European countries also faced difficulties implementing energy efficient technologies, but their transition was more gradual compared to Ukraine’s. EU member states also supported energy efficiency measures with budget programmes when raising energy tariffs. Currently, Poland and Slovakia both have funds targeting projects on reduction of energy consumption.

“Based on the experience of the Eastern European countries, Ukraine implemented a programme of so-called ‘warm loans’ to help people implement energy saving measures in their homes. This programme really works. Since mid-2014, the State Agency on Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving has provided a significant number of concessional loans for homeowners associations,” says Dmytro Naumenko, senior analyst with the Stronger Together information campaign. “The programme is quite useful, because energy efficiency projects are typically expensive. For instance, it costs about five million hryvnias to implement an energy modernisation project for the 16-storey building I live in. Such sums of money are hard for residents to cover.

Now Ukraine’s pilot “warm loans” programme may be united into a single energy efficiency fund, co-funded by international donors including the EU. This fund will offer cheap loans to offset the cost of energy efficiency measures in the residential sector.

Discussions are currently on going about how this fund should function. According to the work plan, the relevant amendments to the legislation are to be adopted in September, specifically law on heat metering and billing, law on energy performance of buildings, and law on energy efficiency fund. These are conditionality’s for EU support.. In the most optimistic scenario, the fund will be established in April 2017.

Maryna Hazhur, project team leader at the Kherson Regional Business Council notes that homeowners can save up to 70% on their bills by insulating and modernising the infrastructure of apartment buildings. Electricity and gas meters help to monitor the use of energy.

When implementing energy efficiency measures, it is valuable to start with an energy audit. This will provide insight into the best options for energy saving. It also helps to compare energy consumption before and after the implementation of energy efficiency measures.

“The energy efficiency of buildings can be improved through complex thermo-modernisation and insulation, including upgrade of heating systems, hot water supply, ventilation, air conditioning, and lighting,” she says. Hazhur advices not to“patch” insulate apartment buildings: “This is mostly ineffective and causes wall damages. Thorough insulation of buildings is not easy, but it is necessary.”

However, there are many small tips that can help individuals save money:

  • Do not hide heating appliances behind curtains, walls, carpets, etc.; this prevents heat circulation in the room.
  • Install radiator screens. These are cheap, but useful: screens prevent up to 5% of heat loss.
  • Keep windows clean to maximize sunlight in the room.
  • Install energy meters to pay only for consumed energy.
  • Replace all lighting with LED bulbs to save electricity and get longer use.
  • Turn off devices when they are not in use.
  • When buying appliances, pay your attention to their energy efficiency class (ideally, A+++)