For more than two weeks Ukrainians have been waiting for their government to reach an agreement with Russia and put an end to the gas conflict, which is also affecting Europe. Some are trying to solve the problem on their own, so as to free themselves of gas dependence, installing independent heating systems at home or using electric heaters. According to the Horshenin Institute, more than 30 percent of Ukrainians express such intentions. Experts at the National Academy’s Institute of Gas feel sure that Ukraine can do without natural gas, replacing it with alternative energy sources. This only requires state funding.
Says Borys Ilienko, Candidate of Technological Sciences, the institute’s academic secretary: “Our institute has devised ways of using biogas to produce heat for production facilities and generate electricity using internal combustion engines. There are raw materials for biogas in Ukraine: for example, distilleries, where biogas is one of products of the production process.
“Instead of discharging it into the atmosphere, we have a technology for converting biogas into natural gas and transporting it through pipelines. Last year our institute developed a solid waste processing technology that also yields biogas. Work is underway on thermal treatment of agricultural and timber wastes. This will produce thermal energy to keep homes warm and generate electricity on an industrial scope.”
The institute’s developments are being effectively used at the Bortnychy aeration plant, Luzhany distillery, and several production facilities in Russia. Ilienko is convinced that the use of alternative energy sources will not solve the problem on the national level, but it is likely to do so on the local level: wind farms and hydropower and solar plants can supply enough electricity and heat to a certain region, whereas giant industrial facilities will have to switch to new kinds of energy. Be that as it may, this is a way out of the situation.
Ecologists are also for Ukraine’s transition to alternative energy sources. The use of biogas will reduce discharges of industrial wastes into the atmosphere (biogas is among the greenhouse effect factors). Experts believe that the government’s recent statement on using electricity instead of natural gas is somewhat misguided.
Says Dmytro Khmara, coordinator of the Ukrainian Ecology Center’s energy program: “This will only worsen the situation with Ukraine’s power efficiency. At present, we’re consuming two or three times more energy than Russia or Belarus for keeping our homes warm and lit and manufacturing industrial products. Twenty percent of electricity is generated using natural gas. Increasing the output of thermal power plants is possible, again, if more natural gas and coal are used. This will increase the consumption of primary energy, considering the energy conversion losses.
Experts further believe that it is not worth expecting too much from nuclear power engineering. Khmara says it is a matter of distant future, and even then it will cost a lot. In fact, Ukraine depends on Russia in this sphere as much as in terms of gas. We don’t have enough uranium of our own to pin serious hopes on it. Environmentalists recommend that businessmen introduce new production technologies that are less energy consuming and switch to renewable energy sources. For example, the use of biogas will cost production facilities less than purchasing natural gas; they will have to pay for the refitting the equipment once and the rest will be a matter of time.