Over the course of many years, the EU has been supporting Ukraine on its path towards energy efficiency. Ukraine's economy depends heavily on imported energy resources. Yet, at the same time the level of energy consumption is three to five times higher than in other countries with a similar climate. More than half of energy consumption can be attributed to apartment buildings. There is, therefore, substantial saving potential hidden in the residential sector.
Simple measures for substantial benefits
When an apartment building is thermally insulated, it helps to cut costs, increase people’s comfort at home, and reduce the impact on the environment.
This is where the "Energy of your home" information campaign comes in, one of several EU-supported initiatives in the sphere of energy efficiency in Ukraine. Launched in February 2017 and finished in November, the campaign was taking place in five Ukrainian cities: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Odesa and Zaporizhia. These cities were chosen as they have the highest number of apartment buildings.
At the beginning of the campaign, a survey was carried out among building residents in these cities. It showed that the majority of Ukrainians did not know about the importance of energy efficiency and possible ways to make their buildings more efficient. The main task, therefore, was to tell Ukrainians about these topics and change people's lives for the better.
There are at least some insulated apartments in residential blocks all over Ukraine. Private companies offer to insulate individual apartment’s facades. However, this approach to resolving the problem is inefficient and can even be quite dangerous for the flat owners and their neighbours.
"First of all, the plastic foam which is used for insulation in Ukraine is a fire hazard. Additionally, humidity can be trapped between the foam and the wall, causing mould and, gradually, cracks in the walls," explains the manager of the “Energy of your home” campaign Maryana Shyposh. "The best insulation material according to EU standards is glass wool, and not plastic foam. But, unfortunately, when people insulate their apartment on their own they go for the cheaper option."
"The goal of the campaign is therefore to convince Ukrainians that their apartment building is a shared responsibility that needs a complex and comprehensive approach," says Shyposh. "We also inform people about how to introduce efficient and affordable energy-efficient measures at home."
Savings of more than €10,000 per year on one building
Many programmes in Ukraine support the implementation of energy-efficient measures. There is the government's programme of "warm" loans, as well as local programmes and those supported by the EU and other donors. These programmes offer flat owners, as well as home-owners associations much more attractive loans compared to those available for individuals.
Kharkiv resident Tetyana Suvorova, the chairperson of the board of the home-owners association of Zlahoda apartment building, explains how they improved living conditions and made their building more energy efficient: "There is a peculiarity about our building; the heat is supplied not from the bottom up but from the top down. Due to this, it was too warm on the top floors, around 27-28 C, so people were opening windows in winter while it was only 17-18 C in the apartments on the floors below. When tariffs were increased in 2016, the residents decided that they had to do something."
An individual heating sub-station was installed in the building so that the heat supply could become automated. "The residents of top floors do not have to open the windows anymore and the heat goes downstairs," says Suvorova "Now, the temperature in the apartments on the first floor is 20-22 C. Last year, we were able to save more than €10,000 in heating bills."
Residents of an apartment building in Kyiv also experienced the advantages of energy efficiency. The head of their home-owners association, Valeriy Nykytchenko, says that they were motivated to create the association due to poor maintenance of the building:
"The association of co-owners can really improve the building and make it more energy efficient. This year we won the largest grant in Ukraine – more than €600,000 - to thermally insulate the building and to improve its use of energy. We want to insulate the facade of the entire building and also modernise the heating system."
Individual insulation of each apartment or an integrated approach – which is the better option?
"By insulating the apartment independently, a resident saves about 10 per cent of heat. If the entire building is insulated, savings can reach up to 90 per cent," says Yuliya Pushko, an expert on energy efficiency.
It is precisely these positive examples that the “Energy of your home” campaign is promoting, developing a range of materials on energy efficiency to disseminate to the wider public. This includes posters and booklets, disseminated by local councils, as well as information stands installed in public places in the five cities selected handing out information about existing programmes for building insulation. Advertisements are also displayed on public transport in the metro, minibuses, as well as at post offices.
Short information videos were created for Intercity trains so that passengers travelling between the campaign cities could learn more. These showed real stories of people who had reduced their energy consumption, as well as about where to turn for financial assistance to introduce energy efficiency measures.
Local authorities also got involved in the campaign. The motivation to get them on-board was the fact that the more energy efficient the apartment buildings, the more energy the city can save for other areas. It also helps the city to become more environmentally friendly and reduce the impact on the climate.
Energy efficiency subject was also promoted in the media and on social networks. "People said that they did not take energy efficient measures seriously before because they simply did not know that such possibilities existed," explains Maryana Shyposh. The campaign organised a number of press tours to showcase best practice, including to Zhytomyr.
Zhytomyr's example: how to pay less and create a comfortable home
Zhytomyr is a good example of a city in Ukraine where the authorities support the community's initiatives, actively cooperate with the EU, and participate in energy efficiency programmes.
"In the first year we introduced energy efficiency measures, we saved hundreds of thousands of euro just on utility bills for schools, kindergartens and hospitals. So far, sixty-three public establishments have been insulated," says Serhiy Sukhomlyn, Mayor of Zhytomyr.
A number of international programmes are also running in Zhytomyr. The total amount of energy efficiency investments under these programmes in the city exceeds 75 million euros. This includes both grants and loans.
According to the head of the association of co-owners of a block of flats on Kyyivska Street in Zhytomyr, Lyudmyla Hallina, all residents in her building realised that insulation was necessary.
"When a professional came with a thermal imager to our building and we saw how it loses heat, we understood that it was time to act," says Hallina. "With the help of the first loan of around €2,000, we replaced all the windows in the apartments and common areas. We received compensation from the state and the regional budget and we had to pay only €500, which we were able to do within only four months.
With a €26,000 loan, of which the state covered €8,000, the association changed the entrance doors to the building and doors to the basement and insulated the facade. Based on the conditions of the loan, residents will pay only 3 eurocents each per month for the next 10 years.
"A year ago we could not keep track of how much we saved because we did not have a meter. Only apartments with individual heating systems could tell the difference. They saved 50 per cent due to thermal insulation. Starting from this season, the rest of the residents will also get lower utility bills," says Hallina.
Olha Melnychuk, another head of an association of co-owners, says that it was difficult to convince people to insulate the building because people are afraid to take out loans.
In reality, all programmes are low risk since they do not require any mortgage. "We carried out a complete overhaul of the roof with a €31,000 grant from the local council. Energy efficiency programmes provided over €30,000 which helped us to install new doors and windows in the common areas, as well as an individual heating sub-station," says Melnychuk.
Thanks to the EU-supported “Energy for your home” information campaign, many Ukrainians have learnt about the importance of energy efficiency measures and the possibilities that the existing support programmes provide. This has helped people to take advantage of the opportunities by considering simple steps. Not only do more and more people now have better conditions in their homes, but they manage to reduce energy consumption and therefore, their heating bills are also coming down substantially.
Author: Daria Tarasova