European heating season
The notion "heating season" has come down to Ukraine from the USSR. Since soviet times Ukrainians have it embedded in mind that heating starts on October 15 by the order from above. And till this order is issued, the whole country freezes.
"Heating season is a rudiment of soviet era, but we have moved to the market-based relationships, thus we must change the system. We will launch a pilot project in Kyiv. Heating will be supplied for the whole year, but consumers will decide when to switch it on or off. At that, payment discipline will be very severe," head of the "Kyivenergo" supervisory board Ivan Plachkov says.
However, to abandon forever the notion "heating season", a series of measure, both legal and legislative, must be taken first. For this, the innovation will be implemented in stages.
As a first step, according to Plachkov, metering devices must be installed in every building for owners to decide when to switch on heating. However, if restaurants, hotels, shops, hospitals and private dwelling are easy to manage, as there is only one owner there, then how to deal with tower-blocks? The answer seems clear - collective decision of dwellers. But! What number of dwellers wishing to turn on the heating is required to switch on the boiler? All 100% or a half is enough? The question remains open.
Moreover, to implement the idea of optional heating, a new regulatory system is needed. In particular, water pressure tests must be cancelled. "It is an anachronism, which must be abolished, but companies cannot do this, as in case of a system failure or breakdown they will be held responsible. At the same time, all heat distribution networks must be replaced eventually. It is difficult, but inevitable," Plachkov says.
As for the legal side of the question, in Plachkov's opinion, consumers and heat supply organizations should cooperate following contractual relations. "According to the current system of payments, consumers pay to a mythic Central information-computing center, which mythically splits the money by a mythic algorithm. But as there is no legal contract, nobody bears responsibility - neither the supplying company for service quality, nor consumers for payments," Plachkov notes.
In theory the idea looks good, considering that Ukraine is slowly but surely making it to Europe. But what will happen in practice? I guess, we will see.
Winter sees us armed and ready
Meantime, Ukraine lives by old heating traditions: preparations to the season start in April and finish in October, when it is already time to switch on the heating, while the officials report about the work done and means spent.
Thus, for this year heating season Ukraine has spent about 3.5 billion hryvnias, and the level of readiness is estimated at 98%.
Explaining the preparatory measures, deputy director of the Center for energy study Vadym Glamazdin says that, firstly, it is needed to update and replace equipment, secondly, to stock up with fuel to provide uninterrupted supply, and thirdly, to provide sufficient financing to maintain the system during the whole season.
So, what do we have for today? It has been planned this year to replace 478 kilometres of heat distribution networks all over Ukraine. Almost everything has been done, but the question is whether it is enough for the whole country. According to expert estimations, 480 km make only 10-15% of the total needs. For example, at least 60% of networks of total length of 2 278 kilometres must be replaced only in Kyiv. You do the math.
Fuel situation is also unclear. As of today, gas storages have enough fuel to outlast the heating season, but there is a nuance. "There are limits for gas, intended for heating, meaning heat supply companies purchase a part of gas for population at special low price. This year limit has been set at six billion cubic meter per year. As of today, four billions have already been taken. Thus, if the things do not slow down or the limit is not raised, by the yearend we will have two-billion-cu-m deficit of this "low-cost" gas," Glamazdin says.
At the same time he underlined that even in case of gas shortage the heating season will continue. "People won't be left without heat. It will be just another debt to district heating company," the expert explained.
Recent developments with the financial state of heating enterprises may truly be called tragic. According to the estimations of the Coal and Energy Ministry, the debt of heating enterprises for gas makes 14 billion hryvnias, UAH 8 billion of which are this year increase.
To solve this situation the government has proposed the parliament to permit heating enterprises to pay off debts with fiscal finance bills. For this, a relevant draft bill has been worked out and registered in the Verkhvona Rada. Well, let's hope that it will help heating enterprises to repay debts and Ukrainians to outlast the heating season of 2013-2014.
Summing up the above said, we must admit that Ukraine indeed needs principally new approach to the heating season. Maybe, we should consider the experience of Scandinavian countries and cancel the very notion of "heating season", or maybe a better variant will appear soon. However, this year everything remains as it is, and let's hope we will have enough heat to survive abnormally cold winter, forecast by meteorologists.
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