Posted by: Erin Concors, Senior Communications Advisor, USAID
As a humanitarian aid volunteer in Ukraine in the 1990s, I discovered many ways to stay warm during the long Ukrainian winters. I experimented with local methods of heating the small apartment that I rented on Kyiv’s left bank, since I had no control over my apartment’s temperature. To cope with the cold, I would light my antiquated gas oven, turn it to “high” and leave the oven door open. I bought Styrofoam insulation, stuffed it into the spaces between the window panes, and used tape to seal the gaps. Alternatively, when the city’s heating system had cranked up the heat and it simultaneously warmed up outside, I opened windows to cope with the hot, stuffy atmosphere.
This personal experience taught me how great the need is for reform of Ukraine’s community heating systems. Since 2009, the U.S. Government has provided financial and technical assistance to Ukraine through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Municipal Heating Reform Project. The project works to help Ukraine improve its heating sector to deliver quality services to private citizens, public institutions and industry. The four-year project aims to address Ukraine’s inefficient legal and regulatory framework; outdated inefficient heat generating equipment; a lack of heat metering and controls; poor management of heating systems; and Ukraine’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Together with Ukrainian government officials, we have developed a national plan to improve Ukraine’s heat supply. We have also worked to establish a better system of regulating industry and heating tariffs. The project works with 38 cities across Ukraine – including Kyiv, L’viv, Lutsk, Sevastopol and Yevpatoria. The project is helping install heat meters and automatic temperature controls in buildings, and encouraging citizens to take control of their heating through forming condominium associations and regulating their energy use.
In recent weeks, billboards and metro ads began running across Kyiv – calling on citizens to “Збережи тепло – збережи Україну!” (“Save Heat – Save Ukraine!”). One of the Municipal Heating Reform Project’s key goals is to educate Ukrainians on how to be energy conscious and responsible consumers of heating supplies. The ads contain information on Ukraine’s energy dependence and share practical, low-cost steps that consumers can take to conserve heat in their homes, such as shutting the doors to building entrances and insulating doors and windows; covering windows with blinds and curtains (making sure that radiators remain uncovered); and placing foil reflectors between radiators and walls. The project also organized “Energy Efficiency Day” events in Kyiv and Kramatorsk in 2011, attracting 2,000 children, teachers and parents to learn more about energy conservation. Participants joined in dance and song contests and received warm hats and scarves that promoted the conservation message.
The project has created “hands-on” learning programs in Ukrainian schools and universities to educate youth about energy conservation methods. Children and college students conduct energy audits in their homes, schools and campus buildings, and in the process learn how to save money through energy conservation, while protecting Ukraine’s energy resources and the environment. The project has also developed a textbook for middle school students, and the national government has approved the Energy Efficient Schools program as an optional course to be taught across Ukraine.
So the next time you see a billboard or sign encouraging you to “Save Heat, Save Ukraine!” consider putting on a sweater, closing the door to your apartment building’s entryway, insulating your windows, and doing your part for the environment!