This summer, representatives of small town councils from Southern and Eastern Ukraine will go to Slovakia to study their colleagues’ experience in the sphere of energy conservation and energy efficiency. “They will be able to communicate with the mayors, visit facilities they are interested in, talk to company representatives, local communities and thus understand how to approach the reforms issue, how money was collected, how project applications were built, who potential donors were, how the project was implemented, what citizens ultimately received, how their life improved, how it affected the budgets of towns,” specified Andrii Chubyk, executive director of the Center for Global Studies “Strategy XXI”, at a press briefing held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
The trip is the next stage of the project “Experience of Slovakia in the sphere of energy efficiency and renewable energy for Ukraine” supported by SlovakAid and USAID. “It is better to see once than hear a hundred times, and learn from the mistakes of others, saving money and time, than repeat them. Therefore, the purpose of the project is to show people from small towns how it works,” said Karel Hirman, Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association expert.
The project was launched a year and a half ago. It began with lectures and seminars for civil servants from ministries and departments, and then representatives of small town councils were invited to Slovakia and the Czech Republic, said Mykhailo Honchar, president of the Center for Global Studies “Strategy XXI”. Last year, the project focused on working with the mayors of towns in Western Ukraine. This year, mayors of Southern and Eastern Ukraine attended a conference in Dnipro in February. The group that will travel to Slovakia to share experiences was selected from the conference participants. The next trip is planned for town councils of Northern Ukraine.
The collaboration resulted in a reference guide about the best practices of small towns of Visegrad countries. “We tried to provide the maximum number of illustrations and references that can be used to find the necessary background information and find contacts in Slovak and Czech towns,” noted Andrii Chubyk.
This year, Slovak colleagues helped conduct energy audits of communal ownership in Khotyn (Chernivtsi region). Based on this document, now the town can calculate what to do, how it can reduce consumption and what it can save for the city budget. Money permitting, another 2-3 similar projects will be implemented in other regions.
The experience of Slovakia and other Visegrad Group countries is useful to Ukraine because they began such processes in the early 1990s, and then the first condominiums appeared. Over this time, local authorities and experts understood what can be done and what cannot. According to Karel Hirman, Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association expert, most importantly, these projects should be properly prepared from beginning to completion. To succeed in it thermoinsulation of buildings should be comprehensive.
The experts emphasized that in case of “top down” movement this process will be very long. So, the best way is to take the initiative, much as Khotyn City Council and many other towns in western Ukraine did. “Much depends on the grassroots level, the end user. They should act on their own rather than wait for manna from the government,” emphasized Mykhailo Honchar. This is especially true for residents of apartment buildings. “The apartment owners need to understand that their property does not end outside the apartment. It includes the whole house with pipes, elevators and roofs. This process will not start unless they understand how to keep the house and implement energy efficiency measures. Neither prime minister nor mayor or public utilities service provider will do this. They alone can achieve this. – […] This will result not only in the lower cost of utilities, but also in quite a different look of the house and its entrance, as well completely different value of this property and quality of life,” noted Karel Hirman.
However, at this stage, much depends on the state. Although the energy efficiency measures in the residential sector should be based on the laws on housing and utility sector, heat energy commercial accounting, energy efficiency of buildings and the Energy Efficiency Fund, they have not been adopted yet. “The laws that are currently in the Verkhovna Rada should be adopted to make it possible in Ukraine. And the experience of the Visegrad Group countries shows that then real results will appear,” stressed Karel Hirman.