Energy generation in Ukraine is becoming distributed. While some welcome this, others watch the process with some skepticism. Halyna Zhuravska is one of the welcomers: she was the first citizen to invest in a solar power plant in Slavutych. Read on to find out what motivated her, and how Slavutych is becoming a solar energy generation role model for the country.
The idea of install solar panels on the roofs of municipal buildings in Slavutych had been floating around for a long time. In 2016, the NGO Greencubator came up with this “Sun City” initiative and started looking for funding. Halyna Zhuravska, the head of the city’s energy management department, supported them in making their grant application.
“I was involved in the idea of the Sun City from the outset,” Zhuravska recalls. “I remember walking on the roofs and checking for suitable places to put the solar panels.”
They failed to receive a grant then, but didn’t abandon the idea.
Andriy Zinchenko, the co-founder of Greencubator, suggested not waiting for grants but financing the plant by themselves. But how? The answer was to offer people the chance to buy a share in an energy cooperative, and make a profit from it. The cost of one share was UAH 15,000, and the investment should pay back in seven years. Then investors will be able to receive dividends of EUR 138 per year. How would the cash be raised? On the sale of electricity under a “green tariff” for electricity generated by renewable energy sources. Citizens from all over Ukraine could become investors, but for the first two weeks sales were reserved solely for Slavutych residents.
“I’ve been dreaming about those solar plants for a long time, so it was a must for me to invest in them,” says Zhuravska. “I did it as soon as I read the news on the website. Then it turned out that I was the first investor.”
When asked whether she had got a prize for being first, she laughs: “No prize for me, though it appeared a good bonus for my reputation.”
Under the project, all investors are to meet regularly to discuss current issues and make decisions, and the first meeting has already taken held at the Greencubator office in Kyiv. From now on, according to Zhuravska, it will be possible to participate remotely and approve the decisions of the meeting with an electronic signature. Lawyers are already working on this, so Zhuravska will not have to travel to Kyiv very often. Fundraising for Sun City kicked off in August 2019 and since then the cooperative has raised about UAH 4 million. The plant is about to be commissioned, while solar panels have been installed on the roofs of three municipal buildings.
A White Paper developed by UNDP experts elaborates on business models for distributed energy projects with a wide range of consumers. In fact, these are guidelines to promote the emergence of “sun cities” like Slavutych across Ukraine. Distributed energy resources could thus become a mass phenomenon. A phenomenon that benefits cities, the energy market and, ultimately, energy consumers. Slavutych is not the only city in Ukraine where distributed resources are already being actively implemented. About 15,000 households now use solar energy. Most are concentrated in Dnipropetrovsk, Ternopil, and Kyiv regions. However, the example of Slavutych remains unique as it demonstrates the ability of a community to invest in clean energy through its efforts — and to make money on it.
Solar panels are installed right on the roof of Zhuravska’s office.
“I say jokingly that the solar panels are already making me warm, even though they haven’t started yet,” the investor laughs. “There is a system in place that tracks power consumption and the feeding of electricity into the grid, so I’ll be able to keep track of how much the plant is earning each day.”
Zhuravska is also always aware of the CO2 emissions from the energy consumed by the city. She learned to make these calculations when developing Slavutych’s energy development plan. She calls this skill her “professional shtick”. Anyone can use it, as the data is available on the website of the city council. By the way, thanks to this detailed analysis and the transition to clean energy, CO2 emissions in the city have been reduced by nearly a half.
But the story doesn’t end there. Once the idea of energy efficiency takes hold, it can be expressed in lots of ways. For example, Zhuravska proudly says that the street lights in the city have been completely replaced with energy-efficient ones. These new “smart” bulbs adjust their brightness according to the time of day. Moreover, Slavutych’s energy development plan until 2030 has other ambitious ideas.
“All actions will be based on the concept of sustainable energy,” Zhuravska says. “For instance, the plan provides for the unbundling of the district heating system. At present, we have three boiler facilities, and we can choose from which to procure heat. A fourth facility is currently under construction based on participatory interest. In this way, we’re going to achieve diversification of the city’s energy supply.”
How does Zhuravska see Slavutych in five years?
“We’re integrating our city into the environment, so that it does not interfere with nature and can provide for itself,” she says. “We’re achieving the planned targets and making further plans. Not for five but for at least ten years to come.”
White Paper “Distributed Energy Resources and Technologies. Creating Preconditions for Their Optimal Use in Ukraine” was developed under the project “Support to the Parliament of Ukraine on Sustainable Energy and Environment” implemented by the UN Development Program in Ukraine with the financial support of Sweden.
This document resulted from a study of distributed energy resource opportunities in Ukraine and provides recommendations aimed at developing a regulatory and economic environment in Ukraine that would not only promote the broad implementation of distributed energy resources and technologies but also create value for their immediate owners — as well as for society in general — through integration into networks and markets.
This story is a part of a communication campaign about environmental changemakers, which became possible thanks to the UNDP project “Support to the Parliament of Ukraine on sustainable energy and environment” with the financial support of Sweden and a partnership project “Effective Development Cooperation Solutions for the SDGs” between the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic and UNDP.
By Yulia Hudoshnyk for UNDP Ukraine