In Kyrgyzstan, about 90% of electricity is produced in a clean, environmentally friendly way and the country uses it for 70 tyiyn (0.008 USD) per 1 kW. At the same time, thermal energy is generated in coal-fired boilers, which emit large volumes of polluted air into the atmosphere. In the winter of 2019, Bishkek has become the one of the worlds’ most polluted cities, which obviously has a negative impact on public health. Experts note that decisive action by the authorities is needed, otherwise the growth of respiratory diseases among the population cannot be avoided. The UNDP team sees the solution to the problem in modernizing the heating system and adopting modern technical standards for supplying and saving energy.
When lighting does not dazzle
In 2019, the UNDP team upgraded classroom lighting systems for several schools in Bishkek. Fluorescent lamps were replaced by LED fixtures that consumed much less electricity and were safer for eyes. This event was part of a large initiative to improve energy efficiency and sanitary conditions in educational institutions, as well as to address environmental problems associated with air pollution. In less than a year, the UNDP team together with an invited expert from the database of Russian experts, developed a pilot program for 23 budget-funded educational and health care institutions.
The database of Russian experts for international development has been established as a part of the Knowledge management and capacity building in Russia-UNDP Partnership Project with a view to facilitating the involvement of Russian experts in the implementation of development programs around the world.
Anatoly Shevchenko, an energy efficiency specialist, shared his views:
"This experience clearly demonstrated what can come from introducing energy-efficiency technologies. We decided to apply new solutions from best practices and advanced international standards that already cover lighting, water supply, ventilation and other areas of energy supply. If these innovations are implemented, harmful emissions into the atmosphere will be reduced by several times, and moreover, we will save significant resources, which will positively affect the growth of the country's economy.”
It should be noted that about 80% of buildings in Kyrgyzstan are heated with coal, which makes an additional "contribution" to air pollution and is not an efficient use of budget funds. With this in mind, the developed pilot program, if successfully implemented, may cover all budget buildings of the country in the future.
How modernization of energy equipment will help reduce air pollution
The developed technical concept is planned to reconstruct lighting, heating and ventilation systems, thereby improving the sanitary conditions of 23 facilities in Bishkek. The experts said that such comprehensive renovation has a significant advantage in terms of economic efficiency and improving the microclimate, compared to the modernization of only one system - either lighting, heating or ventilation.
"During the heating period in Bishkek, it is impossible to breathe because of the large amount of burning coal and harmful substances. Even though air quality is determined by a variety of factors, the consequences of coal heating cannot be underestimated. Outdated boiler plant equipment, inefficient coal combustion methods, poor quality of raw materials, lack of automation, air treatment systems and other factors all lead to air pollution. In addition, as coal boilers cannot not always cope with their load in winter, some energy is lost in heat networks, meaning that school premises do not get enough heat and children study in classrooms without taking off their coats and jackets. We should also add the outdated lighting equipment that is not good for the eyes, having harmful impacts on children's health and quality of education. The developments we have proposed will allow us to comprehensively modernize these facilities and save significant resources," stresses Anatoly.
"Kyrgyzstan has great energy potential, but measures must be taken here and now"
The transition to energy efficient systems has become a challenge for Kyrgyzstan on its way towards sustainable development. Although the country is rich in natural resources, the water level in the largest reservoirs has been decreasing for several years. At the same time, the technical condition of hydropower plants remains at the same level as it was many years ago. Specialists see energy saving as a way to reduce the economy's dependence on reservoirs and to avoid purchasing expensive electricity from abroad. Released energy and financial resources can be used for developing medium, small businesses and other sectors.
The population should play an important role in promoting energy saving. It is in households that a huge potential lies, which can be realized through educating the population and promoting a careful attitude towards energy resources.
"The country has great potential if adjustments are made to energy consumption planning or rationing and the principles of forming incentive payments or subsidies for energy companies. According to our calculations, energy consumption can be reduced by 20-30% in the public sector alone. We should also understand that the government is under enormous pressure to maintain the current level of prices for electricity and heat, as both are socially important products. For example, the state subsidizes heat energy for the population. Let's assume that 1 gigacalorie (Gcal) costs 2000 soms, and energy companies produce and supply it at 5000-7000 soms. The underpaid difference is paid by the government through subsidies to the energy companies, and the consumer in turn remains uninterested in the cost of modernizing their equipment or reducing heat loss in the building," Anatoly explains.
Therefore, it is necessary to move towards energy saving and start from the budget sphere, where the government has all the capabilities to regulate and provide financing. Of course, there are factors that can potentially prevent this. For example, the cheapness of electricity. Its price does not yet cover the costs needed to modernize power-consuming equipment. The way out of the current situation may be the abovementioned comprehensive approach, when equipment modernization is covered by reducing electricity consumption and saving fuel and operating costs.
These approaches may be new to Kyrgyzstan, but they can reduce energy consumption and improve the reliability of energy supply, which in turn will have a positive impact on the sustainable development of the country's economy and improve the quality of air we breathe every day.
Anatoly Shevchenko, UNDP Kyrgyzstan's Consultant, shared his thoughts for this material. He is an UNDP international consultant, has been working in the countries of the Eurasian Economic Community and the CIS, has been working on energy saving for more than 20 years, and graduated from the Nizhny Novgorod State Technical University named after M.V. Lomonosov. He graduated from Nizhny Novgorod State Technical University after R.E. Alekseev and is an electrical engineer.