Leaving an (excellent) workshop in Kiev on the EU Energy Efficiency Directive, I caught a taxi to the airport in the rain.
We hit a traffic jam when we got on the motorway, just before the Dnepr. I rolled down the window to take a picture. What’s that building over there?, I asked the taxi driver. It makes hot water for district heating, he replied. Big, I said. Not really, he said, we have some twice as big, with four tubes. They are from Soviet times and many use coal or a form of oil. We produce high quality coal but we export it and import poor coal from South Africa. Perhaps we should invest in the system, but then I think my bills would go up. The cost of gas for heating, for people who have individual heating, has gone up five times. The government then offers them 40% subsidies towards the cost of other heating systems, such as wood. My own bill [for collective heating] has doubled – although in dollars it is the same as it was.
What about energy efficiency? I asked.
It has become a trend recently, he replied, it has become fashionable – thinking I meant renewable energy. Gas stations have started putting panels on their roof and using this to advertise on facebook, saying we are a modern company. (He went on to describe solar thermal, using verbs because he did not have a noun for it.) I rented a summer house near Nicolaevsk (?) last summer, he went on, they are not on the gas network. The owner told me that when everybody came back from the beach the electricity network used to crash. Now he and others in the village have this system, this no longer happens. The system provides all the hot water for the holiday house. The owner can charge more because the people staying there have hot water always on tap, and in addition he doesn’t have to pay to heat their water. The system cost him half a summer’s rent – it cost a lot, 8 or 9 grand dollars, because it is a remote area – but it will pay for itself in three or four years.
I said we have solar thermal at home. He asked about the capital cost and the payback period. I said it was supposed to pay back in five years but with poor reliability it will be more like eight.
I wonder if all taxi drivers, all Ukrainians, are as well informed about energy.