Ukraine is actively involved in the development of alternative energy sources. In 2018, Bloomberg added Ukraine to the list of countries where investments in environmental projects amounted to more than $2 billion. In February 2019, a plant for the production of solar panels opened in Vinnitsa. This is in addition to the fact that several international and Ukrainian companies (even Naftogaz among them) have expressed interest in creating power plants based on this energy source in different areas of the country. It seems that the attitude of business to eco-projects is changing noticeably, and we are entering a new phase of responsible thinking. What are the reasons for these transformations?
Despite the positive statistics, Ukraine, of course, is not among the world leaders in the development of solar energy. Regardless of the enormous opportunities, we have noticeably lagged behind in this matter, and by attracting Western partners to these projects we are catching up more so by experience than anything else. The trend in the market is set by China – it is there that solar energy develops most actively, contributing to the development of supply and lower prices in the market. Ukraine is in the wake of this trend, and is now using more affordable solutions compared to just a couple of years ago, when they cost 20-30% more.
But the attractiveness of our country is not only based on a huge market and the need to develop gas independence. An important factor is the excessive profit of the “green tariff”. The idea to compensate and pay much more for green energy comes from 2009, when the industry, in fact, took only the first steps, and prices were fantastic. But everything changed: equipment fell in price while the tariff remained the same. However, this too will change soon. In mid-December 2018, deputies of the Verkhovna Rada approved a draft law in the first reading which, in 2020, will lead to replacement of green tariffs with green auctions. In practice, this will mean that green energy prices will fall and there will be no super profits. As such, many are in a hurry to catch the departing train.
At the same time, I am not an absolute sceptic and think that even such a mercantile approach and the search for loopholes for quick money in the long run is useful. If the tariff was created in order to bring about interest in this sphere from businesses, then this is how it works now. And even with the current state of affairs, the development of alternative energy sources is still a contributing factor towards economic independence. Moreover, there is a systemic shift from exclusively business-oriented projects to consumer focused projects. This is a key development.
Not so long ago, the media wrote about a high-rise building in one of the districts of Kyiv, where tenants united in an effective Association of Apartment Owners and installed solar panels on the wall of their building. Such an initiative is not unique, but it is still rare. It is my sincere belief that soon there will be many more such projects, given the fall in prices and the development of technology. Actually, I consider such decisions key in terms of the development of energy independence. And I am sure that it is not big business that invests for the sake of quick profit, but such forms of local self-organisation that need and deserve wider support. This vector is a logical step within the framework of the country’s broader decentralisation strategy.
The development of alternative energy has long-since ceased to be simply a fashionable fad, as it has moved into the category of mandatory or strategic investment. It is time to make this transition to Ukraine. First and foremost, to reduce the unjustified support of big business projects. Not to deprive them of income – we do not need radical turns, but a thoughtful plan of action, with the ability to earn money, though not to the detriment of the state. And second, more attention to small initiatives is needed. At the new plant in Vinnitsa they have already noted that they are aimed not only at large wholesale business but also at the retail trade level to market directly to final consumers. This is an important point that requires more attention from the state. One thing is clear – the more actively we move away from excess gas consumption, the better for the environment and for our safety.