Photo credit: Oleksandr Shlykov / Chortkiv City Council

The lights are going out in Chortkiv, a pretty town in rural Ternopil Oblast, in the west of Ukraine.

But there’s no catastrophe here: Rather, the town has been energized by a new, simple and affordable energy monitoring and management system, introduced with the support of UNDP, which is encouraging locals to save energy – and thousands of hryvnias for the local budget.

The idea behind the system is simple, and it didn’t require major capital investments. Instead, public sector employees working in public buildings, schools and kindergartens were trained to periodically collect energy meters data and fill in electronic and paper forms.

The data collected is sent to an energy management team at the city administration, who sift through to look for “leaks” of energy or other resources and work out ways to plug those leaks quickly. Sometimes the action taken can be as simple as turning out the lights or tightening a leaky valve.

The results of the project, which kicked off late in 2017, have been impressive. During the first year, 2018, around UAH 900,000 in budget funds were saved. And using less energy means less climate-changing CO2 going into the atmosphere: Electricity consumption in the town’s public buildings last year was down by 111.5 megawatt hours, or 4.9 percent, which translates into a reduction of 26.1 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

This year the town has already saved a total of UAH 326,000 – more than 11 percent of which, or UAH 38,000, has been handed out as bonuses to the council energy managers.

Volodymyr Shmatko, Chortkiv’s young and energetic city mayor, has given some of the money saved through the project as prizes to reward the town’s best energy savers.

He describes the rationale behind the bonus scheme.

“Collecting monitoring data often means climbing down into a dimly lit and wet basement every day – not the most enjoyable of tasks – and people are naturally reluctant to do it,” Shmatko says.

So this year UAH 38,000 – around 11 percent of the money saved – has already been handed out as bonuses to the council employees operating the energy management system.

“When, for the first time ever, during celebration of Sustainable Energy Day in Chortkiv, in front of the local community and activists, we handed over a well-deserved prize of UAH 5,000 ($192) to ‘the best energy manager’ – previously a school janitor – it was big news in our town!” Shmatko says.

UNDP project experts recommended that Chortkiv implement a system that motivates the workers of the energy management system. But while the idea of such a motivational scheme has been mooted in Ukraine for some time, so far only the authorities in Chortkiv have been bold enough to use it. With legal support from the UNDP and approval from the city council, the relevant motivational energy management provision was adopted in Chortkiv in 2018.

That boldness has paid off: Monitoring conducted this year as part of the project has proved that the new, motivational energy-management system not only maintained a low level of consumption of energy, but also made the town’s use of energy in the municipal sector 36 percent more efficient.

And with the money saved, the town not only has money to give out in bonuses to encourage energy-saving behaviour – there are more funds for repairs or modernizations, which have the potential to feed back into even more savings for the budget.

On top of that, locals now better understand what it really means to save energy and, more importantly, how to do it on a day to day basis, which, according to one of the town’s young energy managers, Yulia Demkovych, has changed their behaviour.

“People have literally competing to chase after energy losses, switching off unnecessary lights everywhere!” Demkovych laughs.

The project in Chortkiv was implemented as part of UNDP/GEF “Removing Barriers to Increase Investment in Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings in Ukraine through the ESCO Modality in Small and Medium Sized Cities” project.

The five-year project’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by creating favourable legal, regulatory, market environment and building institutional, administrative and technical capacities to promote energy efficiency measures in public buildings. This includes hospitals, schools, governmental and higher education facilities, kindergartens, orphanages, pharmacies, employment centres, libraries and museums, and uses the ESCO model.

*An ESCO or ESCo (an energy service company or energy savings company) is a commercial or non-profit business providing a broad range of energy solutions including designs and implementation of energy savings projects, retrofitting, energy conservation, energy infrastructure outsourcing, power generation, energy supply and risk management.

The project focuses on small- and medium-sized cities and implies the creation of a single nationwide energy consumption database along with an Energy Management Information System (EMIS) in Ukraine.

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