How a Small Town from Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast Surprised Europe with Energy-Efficient Achievements

Dolyna is the only Ukrainian town in this-year list of finalists for the award of the European Union on Sustainable Energy among Eastern Partnership. For a district centre of Ukraine with a population of 20 thousand people such a recognition is a great achievement. It became achievable due to the strategy of sustainable energy development supported by the town authorities, million-euro project and citizens who are ready to actively participate in development of Dolyna.

Over 25 000 sq.m. of walls were made cold proof. The consumption of gas reduced by 24%. Most Ukrainian cities failed to reach such numbers. It took Dolyna three years to get there, however the preliminary conditions for such modernization were launched more than ten years ago.


How did the modernization start?

Back in 2007-2008 the town started developing the strategy of sustainable energy development and plans for energy modernization of certain areas of economy. Deputy Chairman of Dolyna town council, Volodymyr Smolii, says that these intentions were not based on the experience and specific knowledge:

“We wanted to introduce the changes, but we could not do it systematically. Therefore, we paid attention to the “Agreement of Mayors on Climate and Energy”. It offered an ambitious purpose: to reduce the emission of CO2 and consumption of natural gas by 20% and to increase the use of the alternative energy.

Already in 2009 Dolyna was one of the first Ukrainian towns to sign the Agreement of Mayors. In two years, the town had the Sustainable Energy Development Action Plan. It proclaims an ambitious goal – to reduce the emission of the carbon dioxide in the town by 21% by 2020”, told the deputy. 

Together with the ambitious goals the Agreement of Mayors opened to Dolyna an access to expert support from the side of the European Union and modern knowledge in the field of energy efficiency. It was important allowing for the fact that in 2008-2010 Ukraine had not approved modern energy modernization recommendations (there were only old ones that were created at the beginning of 2000s or even earlier).

At the same time the town council of Dolyna had no experts who were able to carry out the energy audit independently or develop full-scale projects of energy consumption reduction. However, in the course of implementation of the Sustainable Energy Development Action Plan the employees of the Department of communal property of Dolyna town council learnt these competencies from the partners.

Nowadays they provide expert consultations on energy audit and modernization of the buildings. The whole town uses their services, but back in 2011-2012 this was out of the question.

Volodymyr Smolii says that after adopting the Action Plan the special actions to energy efficiency started with local decisions. In 2012 the town received its first grant for energy modernization of the buildings from the European Union. The town council focused, first and foremost, on improving the buildings that were under its direct management: kindergartens, educational institutions, hospitals and other public institutions.

At first the energy audit was carried out in such buildings and the system of resource consumption monitoring was installed. Later their facades and ground floors were made cold proof, the roof and water supply systems were replaced, and even alternative sources of energy were installed (sun collectors on the roofs for water heating and heating with the wood raw materials). As of today, three kindergartens in Dolyna were fully energy modernized according to the European requirements. The town also covered a significant share of expenses per object.


Where did the money come from?

Despite the fact that implementation of the Agreement of Mayors in Dolyna was moving forward mainly due to the projects with state-funded institutions, not only these achievements pushed the town to become a nominee of the European Union Sustainable Energy Award. To achieve it, the whole town had to go through significant changes.

The opportunity appeared in 2014 when within the framework of the Agreement of Mayors the European Union announced a competition of demonstration projects. The idea was in participating towns submitting large-scale energy modernization proposals. The European partners were ready to cover most of the costs (from 60% to 80%). The total cost of each of the winners’ projects varied between 500 thousand to 1.5 mln. EUR.

Dolyna was one of the participants of the program of demonstration projects. However, its project impressed the representatives of other participants from Ukraine: the town offered large-scale energy modernization of a great number of its blocks of flats.

All post-Soviet cities have one common problem – excessive energy consumption in panel buildings. As Volodymyr Smolii says, the town council studied the energy consumption volumes in different buildings of Dolyna according to the area. As it was found out, the largest resources are spent on residential heating. Buildings built in 1960-1970 were subject to modernization. 

“It is much easier to protect a kindergarten or school from cold, as these buildings belong to the town property. There are always many questions in protecting buildings from cold: someone has an antenna, the other – a balcony, someone is ready to pay for the modernization of the whole building in equal parts, while the other one thinks that his/her liability is limited only to his/her flat”, tells the head of the Town Property Department of Dolyna Town Council, Serhii Harhat. Before he was also a manager on communications of the demonstration project of the Agreement of Mayors in Dolyna.

According to Serhii Harhata, the town council agreed to cooperate with the residents of the blocks of flats not only because their buildings had the highest energy consumption. It was also a way to make really large-scale transformations in the town, to change the foundations of people’s attitude to effective consumption of resources in their houses. Therefore, the project focused only on those buildings, which already had Apartment Building Joint Owner Associations, as well as on those which were managed by the management companies.

The financial component was also very important. No apartment building joint owner association in Dolyna could solely pay for the full energy modernization of their homes. Under the initial terms, the European Union was ready to allocate 733 thousand out of 1.03 million EUR envisaged for implementation of this project. The remaining part of the expenses had to be covered by the residents and town council.

“We wanted to show that people can also improve their houses and that they also have to do it. Therefore, we envisaged that a certain percentage for protecting the house from cold would be paid by them”, said Volodymyr Smolii.

He tells that later the ratio between the shares became 60% (EU funds without changes in the scope) to 20% and 20% (equal shares of the town council and people). Later new unexpected expenses popped up (for instance, it was necessary to protect the basements from cold). These expenses were covered from the town budget.


How did you convince the residents?

According to Serhii Harhata, at first the residents of Dolyna reacted to the initiative of the town authorities suspiciously. Under the results of interview of town residents, in 2015 about 45% of them did not know how much money they could allocate to energy modernization of their houses, while 25% were ready to allocate 3 thousand hryvnias for it, while the market price of protecting one apartment from cold is by 8-9 times higher.

The caution of residents resulted in the intensity of their participation in this initiative at the beginning. In 2015 Dolyna town council announced the first tender for cold protection among the blocks of flats. Only 16 applications were received, out of which 13 were approved for participation in modernization. Next year the number of participating buildings grew to 24, out of which 17 received the funds for the warm façade.

Tenders, approvals of all documents, collection of money by the residents, purchase of materials, façade and basement insulation last from 2015 until 2018. During these years 30 buildings were energetically modernized. Most of them have 60 flats.

In total there are 300 blocks of flats in Dolyna, however only 108 of them have the Apartment Building Joint Owner Association or are managed by the management companies. 29% of the them are insulated. Until 2014 there was only one such building in Dolyna.

“When the demonstration projects of the Agreement of Mayors were under final stage, Dolyna town council offered a new program: «50 by 50». Under it, we are ready to finance the half or even 60% of expenses of the residents on energy modernization of their blocks of flats. If there is a clear proposal and readiness to provide the rest of the money”, says Serhii Harhat. There are already 10 buildings in the list of candidates for participation in this program.

The buildings in the central part of Dolyna make you think that the town is located not in the Western Ukraine. There are very few buildings from the Austrian times or times of Second Rech Pospolyta. Though the town was established over thousand years ago, it got its modern look during 1960-1980s as important oil production companies are located here.

Therefore, the centre of Dolyna is full of Soviet-period buildings. Most of them are panel residential buildings. Until 2014 their facades looked dull.

“Nice color, don’t you think?, Halyna Kuznietsova points out to the pink walls of the building, how Apartment Building Joint Owner Association she heads. – Those who did not pay the money for heat insulation still say that we chose bad colours”.


What are the savings?

According to Halyna Kuznietsova, complaints about the colour of the façade remained the only arguments against protecting the building from cold from the side of objecting residents. The concerns that the money spent on modernization will bring no results proved to be false. The gas consumption in each flat (the residents of the blocks of flats of Dolyna have autonomous heating) decreased by 30% at average.

“I have been dreaming for a while about cold protection and calculating a potential benefit from it. I went to my neighbours with this proposal. They were not against but answered that could not cover the cost of such works by themselves”, Halyna Kuznietsova says. The program of demonstration projects of the Agreement of Mayors gave such a chance.

Negotiations with all residents of the house of Halyna Kuznietsova and collection of money took a lot of time. The head of the Apartment Building Joint Owner Association tells that there was a moment when she almost surrendered to despair: the autumn was coming, while the cold protection works have not started yet and several thousand hryvnias were missing to reach the necessary amount (20% of the modernization cost had to be covered by the residents).

Then Halyna Kuznietsova found out about the program of “warm loans”. It allowed the Apartment Building Joint Owner Association to lend the money for modernization at a low interest rate, while the state guaranteed the repayment of a part of the loan. Under it, the Apartment Building Joint Owner Association of Halyna Kuznietsova received 172 thousand hryvnias, out of which the budget funded 72 thousand hryvnias. The loan was repaid, the energy modernization of the building within the Agreement of Mayors was completed and the entrances were repaired out of the repaid funds.

“Not all flats paid for the cold protection. Only 7 out of 20 flats paid in the last section. Therefore, we allocate the funds for the repair in proportion to the money transferred. For instance, I made the largest payment out of all residents – UAH 5200, but I feel a real benefit”, summarizes Halyna Kuznietsova.

The head of the Apartment Building Joint Owner Association is also proud of the new roof in her house. It was installed out of the saved funds of the Association. Halyna Kuznietsova says that now the building is close to full energy modernization.

The head of another Apartment Building Joint Owner Association of Dolyna, French House, Victor Semkulych also says that the residents of his building have already evaluated the benefits of modernization. They applied for the competition of demonstration projects of the Agreement of Mayors in 2016. The building was made coldproof very quickly from sprint to autumn of 2017.

“As we all have autonomous heating, it is difficult to talk about some common numbers. My personal gas consumption reduced by 20%. I hear most thanks for this project from the residents of the first floors as finally it became warm in their flats”, says the head of the Apartment Building Joint Owner Association.

Voctor Semkulych says that each flat spent not more than 3600 hrn. for making the building coldproof.

The head of Apartment Building Joint Owner Association of French House is aware that his building is far from perfection, if to talk about energy efficiency: at least, the roof must be replaced. However, according to Victor Semkulych, the residents of his building believed in the effectiveness of the initiatives with co-funding due to demonstration projects of the Agreement of Mayors. Now they are going to apply for 50 by 50 competition by Dolyna town council.

Source: SHOTAM