Slovaks help Ukrainians to implement energy saving measures in municipalities.

“As the most energy intensive country in Central and Eastern Europe, Ukraine considers the experience of Visegrad countries with energy efficiency to be very valuable,” wrote Andriy Chubyk, Ukrainian energy expert, in an article published last year.

Chubyk has worked with his Slovak colleagues on transferring the Slovak experience to Ukraine. The key to increasing energy efficiency in Ukraine are smaller cities, the partners have learnt after several years of cooperation.

More legislative effort needed

As Chubyk wrote in his article, Ukraine has dramatically reduced its energy consumption due to the annexation of Crime and the war in Donbas.

“In 2016, Ukraine’s economy started its slow recovery while energy consumption continued to decline, thus keeping its promise to follow a decoupling path like most European countries,” Chubyk pointed out.

Since November 2015, Ukraine has implemented its first Energy Efficiency Action Plan. It sets the target of saving 9 percent of final energy consumption by 2020.

“To achieve this goal, however, Ukraine needs to enhance legislative process and implementation of legal requirements,” Chubyk observed.

Main obstacle: oligarchic groups

SETPlan2016.sk asked Chubyk about the main obstacles to further progress.

“Political populism and oligarchic resistance,” the expert responded. “Both are connected through business ties and financial interests.”

According to Chubyk, politicians have an interest in higher energy consumption and call for higher subsidies, which are in fact going to the utilities and not to final consumers.

“I am convinced that all delays with energy efficiency legislation happen, because of sabotage in the parliament from the side of pro-oligarchic groups of parliamentarians,” the expert told to SETPlan2016.sk. “This factor is still among the strongest obstacles to further reforms in Ukraine.”

Working on the local level

Meanwhile, Chubyk and his NGO Centre for Global Studies “Strategy XXI” work with the Slovaks in advancing energy efficiency in municipalities.

In 2015 – 2017, the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) currently implemented a project funded by Slovak Aid and the International Visegrad Fund. SFPA now has a new project funded by U.S. Aid covering the period until September 2017 and aiming to build “broad-based resilient economic growth as a means to sustaining Ukrainian democracy.”

The purpose of the common Ukrainian-Slovak project is to enhance energy security by improving energy efficiency in municipalities as well as by raising public awareness about the issue.

Slovakia and Ukraine: similar heritage

Director of the SFPA’s Research Centre says the donors made Slovakia learn something new about itself.

“We learnt that Slovakia is the leader of the former Eastern bloc when it comes to dynamics, extensity and quality of renovation of buildings,” Alexander Duleba told SETPlan2016.sk.

Duleba says SFPA’s activities in Ukraine are appreciated by the international donors and open new doors to the country’s engagement across its Eastern border.

According to Duleba, Slovakia and Ukraine inherited similar infrastructure of district heating systems. That “makes our experience, especially when it comes to modernization, much better tailored to the needs of Ukraine in comparison with the Western European countries.”

Smaller cities as the added value

Both partners, Chubyk and Duleba, agree that it is best to work with smaller cities.

“We learnt that our strategy to focus on rather smaller municipalities (up to 200 thousand inhabitants) proved to be a correct one,” Duleba analyses. The reason for such a choice in the beginning was the size of Slovak cities: most of them have less than 200 thousand inhabitants.

Hence, SFPA is bringing an added value, Duleba believes.

“Most of the existing programs of the Ukrainian government as well as international donors in the field prefer to work with large municipalities whereas smaller ones have much limited access to national and international programs,” Duleba said.

Pursuing the best example

Chubyk confirms: “The most vital interest to energy efficiency projects is shown from small town, especially far from industrial centres.”

The Ukrainian expert underlines that such municipalities own little resources.

“Central governmental institutions are overbooked with different offers of support and technical assistance, while on the local level there is a need in training of energy managers, pilot projects and energy audits,” listed Chubyk.
Chubyk suggests it would be good to have a best-practice example. A “local best case of success” could then be repeated by other towns.

Avoiding the swindlers

The Ukrainian expert believes there is a carrot in all this.

“Only communication with city mayor and city council, availability of energy manager with motivation can ensure sustainable progress.”

But he sees also the need for a stick. The expert says it is necessary to constantly check on the involved cities.

“It is important to ensure constant monitoring of activities in towns, where pilot projects are implemented, in order to find and minimize access to funds and expertise from the side of occasional companies and swindlers.”

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The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 730882.

Supported by a grant from Norway. Co-financed from the Slovak State Budget. Program SK08 – CBC – Slovakia – Ukraine: Cooperation across the Border.