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Henry M. Robert

Do you pay tuition fees and are forced to stay on holiday? There is an alternative!

On Ukrainian universities that implement “green” technologies and benefit
31 January, 2013 - 10:35
Photo from the website STAVMINPROM.RU
“MAY THROUGH AUGUST, WITH THE HELP OF SUN BATTERIES ONE CAN SAVE UP TO 100 PERCENT OF ENERGY THAT IS USED FOR HEATING WATER. IN SPRING AND AUTUMN, THIS FIGURE WILL BE 50, AND IN WINTER TIME – 5 TO 45 PERCENT OF TOTAL CONSUMPTION,” RECTOR OF THE PEREIASLAV-KHMELNYTSKY-BASED SKOVORODA STATE PEDAGOGICAL UNIVERSITY VIKTOR KOTSUR ASSURES. ONE OF THE DORMITORIES OF THE UNIVERSITY IS EQUIPPED WITH SUN BATTERIES, HAVING SAVED 40,000 HRYVNIAS LAST YEAR / REUTERS photo

Students of the French city of Le Havre live in comfortable and stylish dormitories: refurbished old cargo containers. There are plenty of them, because Le Havre is a port city. Besides the fact that housing project “Cite A Docks” promotes reuse of materials, architects took care of energy-efficient windows and constant ventilation of the dormitories. Such eco houses are not something strange for foreign students. A lot of them are used to green gardens on balconies, solar collectors on roofs, irrigation systems for plants which use rain water, electricity provided by wind turbines, etc. But for Ukrainian students, even such thing as waste sorting is rather an exception than a usual practice. The Day learned which Ukrainian universities joined the “green” lifestyle and how they benefit from it.

ANNUAL FORCED HOLIDAYS

Conversations about Ukrainian universities lacking budget money for utility payments become more frequent every year with the start of heating season. Many schools are forced to send students on forced holidays and teachers – on unpaid vacations in January and February, change schedule and tighten the curriculum, introduce studying on Saturdays, increase the amount of lectures during warm season and decrease it in winter. This year is no exception. For example, in the Chernivtsi National University (CNU), the study session will only be resumed in February. “Winter holidays for students have been prolonged constantly during the past few years, but this year they are especially long: from January 7 to February 11,” reads the paper Molody Bukovynets. It quotes the CNU dean Stepan Melnychuk, who says that such measures were implemented in order to save. “We have established long vacations because we want to maximize energy savings,” the dean explains. “We decided upon this at the beginning of the school year, that is why the curriculum was planned in a way that let us end the first semester by January 1. During the first semester classes were to be attended on ten Saturdays, in the second semester students will have to study on five more Saturdays.” The newspaper says that at the moment only the fifth university building is heated, because administration is located there, and only one dormitory, in which orphan students reside, is heated. This helps save 30 to 40 percent of energy.

Students and teachers of the Cherkasy National University are on holiday from December 28 to February 4 because of the same reasons. Vacation is going to end on February 4 as well at the Carpathian National University. The university’s press service said that such long holiday is caused by energy saving. Some schools move students’ summer practice to winter. In particular, Uzhhorod National University had to make this change. This list goes on and on. In response to The Day’s information request, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine said that they did not order the universities to change curricula. And we have not received an answer to the question about how the ministry planned to solve the energy saving problem which directly affects the study process.

Experts say that long vacations and more intensive schedule are forced and temporary measures that do not solve the problem. One of the possible solutions is the usage of “green” technologies, which can considerably help universities. There are examples of this, even in Ukraine.

ADVANTAGES OF BEING ENERGY EFFICIENT

Ukraineconsumes about 60 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually. This is the level of consumption of the United States, Japan, Russia, and Germany, but at the same time, these countries produce dozens of times more goods and services. In total, Ukrainians spend three times more electricity than Europeans. The state has been fighting the united national indifference for heat, electricity, and water saving for a long time without any tangible results. “We have eight state bodies pertaining to energy policy and renewable energy sources usage, but the problem is that they are absolutely not coordinated with each other,” says Roman ZINCHENKO, head of the Greencubator project.

The situation with legislation is not clear either: responsibility for resources overexertion is not defined clearly, there are problems with infrastructure and corruption, and the most important: there are no economic motivators to save energy. If state institutions reduce expenses, next year their budget will be simply cut down. “Growing energy prices barely leave any money for energy efficient technologies implementation. In this situation, most of the energy saving measures that are implemented in schools happen thanks to grant aid, that is why instead of being widespread, the measures resemble pilot projects,” says Olena SHEVCHENKO, chief energy manager at the National Technical University of Ukraine “Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.” According to universities representatives, there is will to convert buildings into energy efficient ones, but it requires large amount of financial resources.

Experts think that implementation of alternative forms of financing might be the solution of the problem. “The most appealing mechanism is an ‘energy service contract.’ Firstly, a company invests into university refurbishment, and then it receives university’s savings on heating and electricity bills on a monthly basis. In this way, a university does not lose anything, and after all the payments are made, it gains considerable reduction of utility payments,” explains Vadym LYTVYN, deputy director of the GPI public utility company. According to him, the loan for state institutions should pay off in 7 to 12 years for thermal reorganization, but accounting system and regulation energy would take only 1 to 3 years to pay off. After becoming energy efficient, schools gain independence from state, economic crises, and weather conditions. And saved money can be spent on classrooms and laboratories equipment, purchase of new furniture, travels abroad for teachers and students, etc.

“GREEN” CAMPUSES AND UNIVERSITIES

While the state fails at fighting the “waste syndrome,” the constantly growing number of private initiative groups and NGOs succeed. Experts are convinced that it is easier to bring up the responsible and conscious young generation than to teach older people all over again. “If instead of seeing a broken tap a person will see a thermal regulator on a radiator, distributed generation system, implementation of alternative energy sources instead of gas and coal, they will use modern approaches at their workplaces as well,” Zinchenko is convinced. He founded the Greencubator project with a group of like-minded people in 2009. The project was aimed at educational activity in the sphere of energy efficiency, renewable energy, emission reduction, etc. “Energy-efficient Universities” was one of the first launched initiatives, which united about 60 Ukrainian universities through meetings, conferences, and energy camps. The emphasis on universities in not coincidental: universities and research centers are one of the first to develop and implement the “smart energy” technologies.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is also concerned with the energy saving problem. This organization has been sponsoring the program “Energy-efficient University Campuses” for three years. Organizers hope that thanks to this program, its partners will implement a systematic audit of resources consumption. In order to achieve this, the schools were granted corresponding manuals and sets of tools for measurement and energy audit conduction. Lytvyn emphasizes that energy saving approaches for dormitories and school buildings are different: “Temperature regulation is essential for school buildings in order to lower the temperature during holidays and on weekends and reach the maximum effect of heat energy saving. It is less rational for dormitories, because they are constantly occupied, but operations with hot water should receive more attention there because of its heavy consumption.”

Energy education is also started in primary education schools. USAID promotes the learning process by arranging excursions to local heating enterprises and through various contests. “The results of the survey, in which 387 students, 360 parents, and 143 teachers from 8 Ukrainian cities participated, revealed a change of habits to more energy-saving in 94 percent of parents, 92 percent of students; and 98 percent of students offered their parents to implement energy saving measures at home,” says the press service of the project. Private companies also joined the process of school students informing. For example, Tetra Pak Company and All-Ukrainian Ecologic League developed and distributed among school students the Ukrainian Civil Environmental Code. “Sections of the document are dedicated to ways of water, electricity, and heat saving. The basic principle of our advice is that anyone can do it. By the way, the code itself was printed on recycled paper,” says the company manager Anna TARANTSOVA.

By Oksana KHMELIOVSKA
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