On April 19, the 350.org team together with partners and journalists toured Zhytomyr – Ukraine’s first city officially planning to make a transition to 100% renewable energy sources by 2050. The city leaders made this public commitment in June last year. During our tour, we tried to find out what has changed in the city and how Zhytomyr has progressed towards their goal.

In conversation with the city’s mayor about plans for the transition to 100% RE. Image: Julia Pashkovska

The city’s path to the modernisation of its energy system started with the Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP). They introduced one of the first energy monitoring systems in municipal institutions in order to keep a record of the amount of energy they consume. This helped plan Zhytomyr’s annual budget, because an understanding of how much heat energy and electricity is consumed by an institution in different seasons at different temperatures makes it possible to forecast the final public utilities’ bills compared to the starting year.

The Polissya Institute at the (Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences), which explores energy plants. Image: Julia Pashkovska

The first step in the city’s journey to a better energy balance is implementing energy saving and energy efficiency measures. That is why all 24 kindergartens and schools in the city are being comprehensively retrofitted, mostly by means of grants and credit funds.

The city is actively developing an electric transport system. They are now opening a tender for the procurement of 49 new trolleybuses, as each new vehicle consumes 30-40% less energy than older options. Two new trolleybus routes have been opened, and two more lines are planned in order to gradually replace fuel-powered transport. “This is efficient, safe, convenient and environmentally-friendly,” Mr. Sukhomlyn, the mayor of Zhytomyr stated.

The water networks and wastewater treatment plants are being renovated, as previously, up to 55% of drinking water was lost due to leaks. On top of this, the network is run down, and the equipment is outdated. This inefficiency consumes a lot of energy. So this year, the city started laying new networks, and constructing wastewater treatment and sewerage facilities. In two years, the city expects to get a practically new water and wastewater treatment system that should consume 30% less energy. Zhytomyr’s district heating is also to be renovated: 15 km of heat pipes are expected to be replaced.

But so far one of the biggest highlights in the city’s modernisation is the construction of a new power plant working on alternative energy, which will start in September 2019. The power plant is expected to produce heat from renewable energy, and this will cut the heating bill for city residents. This should be half the price of imported gas. Additionally, the power plant will generate electricity for municipal institutions. These measures will allow the city to reduce gas consumption in the energy balance by approximately 40%, according to the city mayor.

Operator of the biofuel boiler that heats the school, is telling about the operation principles of the system. Image: Julia Pashkovska

Renewable energy trends have also been taken up within the region. It has the second support programme in Ukraine for private solar power plants, which reimburses up to 30% of the cost of the power plant. As a result of this programme, about 100 private solar power plants with the capacity of up to 30 kW have been set up in Zhytomyr region. 45 of them in Zhytomyr city itself,  one of which will have 11MW capacity and be set up at a municipal company. This new solar power plant can fully satisfy the power demand of the district’s heating and water and wastewater use.

Participants of the press tour near the home solar station. Image: Julia Pashkovska

The street lights in Zhytomyr have also been replaced with LED lights (12 thousand lamps have been replaced, another 1000 are to be done), as their quality is higher, the life cycle is longer, and the energy consumption is 40-60% smaller than for incandescent bulbs. This replacement is also done with credit funds. But the city is already benefiting, because these lamps are saving energy and the amount of money saved on public utility bills could be used to cover the loan, as Serhiy Ivanovych, Zhytomyr’s mayor says.

Nevertheless, the renewable energy share in the city’s energy sphere is still very small – less than 0.5%. But the mayor is confident: first they will increase energy efficiency throughout the city, while reducing consumption by big industry. When they have achieved significant energy savings in this sector too, Zhytomyr will start rapidly growing the number of renewable energy facilities in the city’s energy mix.

Learn more about the renewable energy work in the Ukraine at cityforlife.org (site in Ukrainian).

Participants of the press tour with city mayor.
Image: Dmitry Pankov

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