Moldova working towards energy efficiency with EU support: a win-win for all involved

28-08-2017

Today, achieving low energy consumption levels is no longer a difficult challenge for the Republic of Moldova. With the assistance of funds from the European Union, alternative energy sources are taking the place of traditional ones, contributing to a decline in energy losses, and to the country’s energy security.

Over recent years, energy efficiency projects have proved their worth in Moldova, supporting not only those who value the reduction in their heating costs, but also the protection of the environment. Solar and geothermal energy are increasingly being used, and biomass boilers are replacing old boilers, making them more affordable for both households and public institutions.

Energy efficiency standards implemented in Calarasi

In Calarasi, a town 50km from Chisinau, work began more than a year ago on a kindergarten, built in line with the German ‘passive house standard’, which implies a low consumption of thermal energy, minimal losses of heat and enhanced methods of heat conservation. This project, innovative not only for this town but also for the whole country, was possible thanks to the support of the Development Bank from one of the EU Member States – Germany. The bank has allocated €1 million for the construction of the new kindergarten from scratch. The investment was made through the ‘Social Infrastructure and Energy Efficiency’ project implemented by the Moldovan Social Investment Fund.

The concept implies total energy independence for the building, with heating based on three renewable energy types: a biomass boiler, five geothermal pumps and four solar panels. As a result, the maintenance costs of the kindergarten, with an area of 1,100 square metres, will be comparable with those of a three-room apartment. The specialists assure that the energy bill will not exceed, on average, MDL 2,000 per month.

“First of all, we are glad that we will have new places available for children in the kindergarten and, secondly, we are glad we will have substantial savings in heat and electricity consumption. The project foresees that only 15 kW/year will be spent per square metre, compared to 250 kW/year currently consumed by public institutions. The accumulated savings could be directed towards other purposes, in particular increasing the energy efficiency of public buildings in the town,” says Nicolae Melnic, Mayor of Calarasi.

Located in the Codri area, Calarasi town is a picturesque location and the place chosen by the local authorities for the new kindergarten simply fascinated the German investor: “It was a beautiful autumn, and the view that opened in front of the place where the kindergarten was being built was an amazing one, the area dressed in autumn clothing,” Nicolae remembers. “The German investor looked into the distance for five minutes and decided that this was the most suitable place for the new investment in our country.”

In 2012, the local authorities in Calarasi developed a sustainable energy efficiency action plan that envisages a reduction of 20% of CO2 emissions by 2020. 

“By pursuing this goal, we undoubtedly contribute to saving nature. Our city is in a very beautiful area, and it would be a pity not to protect nature. The construction of this new building is part of this ambitious but perfectly achievable goal,” Nicolae says.

Today, the construction work has finished and the institution is ready to host 100 out of the 400 children in Calarasi who are enrolled on the waiting list to attend a kindergarten. The original design with bright colours, a beautifully landscaped courtyard and spacious rooms – unusual for Moldovan kindergartens – makes this building a much-anticipated place not only for children but also for parents.

Young mother Silvia Secui is impressed, and looking forward to the kindergarten opening so that she can bring her child: “We are very happy that our town has benefited from the support provided to build this energy-efficient kindergarten,” she says. 

“We are confident that it will be comfortable not only in terms of design, but also thanks to the thermal comfort. Children will have heat, and this will allow them to grow and be educated in very good conditions. The new kindergarten means less money for maintenance and more heat for children.”

Silvia Dodon, the manager of the new kindergarten, says the lack of vacant places in day care institutions is an acute problem for the town, which is why many parents have to stay at home with their children. “Now, they will be able to get jobs, knowing that their children are taken care of in good conditions and are safe and comfortable in the new kindergarten,” she says.

A new face for public street lighting in Ialoveni

The local authorities in Ialoveni, a town located 12km from Chisinau, have fully acknowledged the role of energy efficiency in reducing local spending, which is insufficient to cope with all the town's problems. Building on this reality, the EU (through support provided to the Energy Efficiency Fund and the EU Covenant of Mayors initiative, which bring together local and regional authorities to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources), has become the loyal partner of Ialoveni City Hall in implementing energy efficiency projects.

Thanks to the support provided by the Energy Efficiency Fund, a project for improving the energy efficiency of public street lighting is being implemented in Ialoveni, while thermal insulation for the town’s kindergarten No. 1 “Andries” has recently been completed. The Fund, which received assistance from the EU at its set-up stage and later benefited from other sources of funding – including from the Moldovan state budget – is an example of how the support provided by the EU becomes sustainable in the country. 

“As a public authority, we have focused on the efficient use of the financial means that we have at our disposal,” says Deputy Mayor of Ialoveni, Radu Chilaru. “In this way, we intend to make rational use of local taxpayers’ money and attract foreign funds to implement major energy efficiency projects.”

“Benefiting from European resources, we are contributing to the improvement of livelihoods in the town,” he added. “The money saved on energy consumption as a result of implementing the public street lighting project will be directed to road rehabilitation, water supply and sewerage networks. At a later stage, we plan to light up pedestrian crossings in public places and then playgrounds for children.”

The total cost of the public street lighting project in Ialoveni is MDL 4.1 million, 75% of which is provided by the Energy Efficiency Fund and 25% by the town itself. The project envisages the replacement of consoles, wiring and sources of light with low energy consumption ones.

Ialoveni's kindergarten No. 1 “Andries” has been another beneficiary of the Energy Efficiency Fund. With the Fund’s support, thermal insulation works was finished, allowing the children to keep warm through the winter.

The director of the kindergarten, Carolina Nofit, says MDL 2.8 million was used for thermal insulation of the walls, and replacement of windows and doors: “Before, we’d be forced to tape the windows shut every winter to keep the heat in the kindergarten,” she explains. 

“However, things have changed now and the thermal comfort in the institution is higher. The thermal insulation of the walls allows us to keep the heat, and the new windows have brought more light in. It’s great for the children who keep warm, but we are also benefiting from the savings made on heating costs, with which we will be able to buy games and teaching equipment for the school.”

Teacher Silvia Schitco says it was so much easier to work in the kindergarten last winter: “We used to have to rush through all the activities, and move around to keep warm. Now, we can focus more on activities, we are healthier, and we feel more comfortable. During winter we used to have a 50% absence rate due to frequent illnesses, but now that’s gone right down.”

Balti municipality: energy efficiency with new trolleybuses

In the city of Balti, the northern capital of the Republic of Moldova, local authorities have successfully implemented a project to renovate the urban trolleybus fleet.

With €4.6 million (€1.6 million from the EU and €3 million a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), the municipality of Balti purchased 23 new energy-efficient trolleybuses and made key investments at the trolleybus Fleet Management Company.

“Currently, the local public administration is considering the purchase of new trolleybuses to expand public transport and make it more comfortable for our inhabitants, thus encouraging them to leave their cars at home,” says Balti Deputy Mayor Igor Seremet. “Ultimately, we are planning both the optimisation of transport and the reduction of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, an objective taken on by the Balti municipality when it signed the EU Covenant of Mayors in 2016.”

The city’s residents are pleased with the new trolleybuses, as they are more comfortable and quiet. They also allow mothers with children, the elderly and those with mobility problems to get on and off much more easily.

The local authorities are currently in the process of public consultations with the inhabitants to determine the priorities for attracting new lending resources. “I like the end point of all these processes, because we manage to get substantial savings from the local budget, which can be directed towards other purposes,” Igor Seremet says. “For example, we are considering the modernisation of worn trolleybuses, which will also help to reduce electricity consumption.”

Renewable energy promotes energy security

In 2011, renewable energy accounted for just 2% of the energy balance in the Republic of Moldova. Now it stands at over 15%, of which 90% is biomass-based energy. This result has been achieved thanks in part to the EU-funded Moldova Energy and Biomass Project (MEBP), which promotes biomass-based energy consumption and stimulates sustainable energy production and local development.

Victor Cotruta, Energy and Biomass Project Manager, points out that a decade ago, the country depended entirely on energy resources from abroad, mainly from Russia. “Support for the renewable energy sector is very important to ensure the energy security of the Republic of Moldova,” he explains. “The steps taken in this direction will allow our country to avoid total dependency on foreign energy sources.”

“We have our own energy resources, which until now were considered waste,” he continues. “As an agricultural country, the Republic of Moldova has large quantities of agricultural waste that can be used to produce energy. In this way, not only is the ozone layer protected from illegal combustion of agricultural waste, but the energy produced from this waste can be used to heat private homes and public institutions. By using renewable energy, not only do we secure the country from an energy point of view, but we also protect the environment – and EU support is very important in this respect.”

At the same time, the use of renewable energy sources is economically sustainable, with heating costs lower for biomass boilers than for gas boilers. “It is important to note that even if we pay the same price for the installation of biomass boilers as for gas-fired boilers, the use of local resources is much more advantageous – the financial sources remain with us in the country,” Victor adds. “Instead of sending money to Russia, we offer our entrepreneurs the possibility to develop their own businesses, producing pellets, briquettes, etc. In other words, several goals are being achieved by promoting renewable energy sources.”

The National Development Programme ‘Moldova 2020’, which sets long-term goals to achieve a substantial level of energy efficiency, provides for a 20% reduction in energy consumption by 2020, a 20% increase in the use of renewable energy sources, increasing the use of biofuels by at least 10% and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25%.

 

Author: Mariana Tabuncic

 

Article in Romanian