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UKRAINE’S ENERGY FUTURE: A PATH TO SUSTAINABILITY OR FURTHER EPENDENCE?

The accident at Fukushima, Japan nuclear power plant forced the  world community to revise dramatically their plans regarding nuclear answering the worlds need for cleaner energy  and on a state scale re-estimate their national energy strategies. For example, Germany immediately re-estimated their plans in nuclear safety and decided to swap to almost 100% of renewable energy in the nearest decades.

Ukraine doesn’t consider such measures yet: “Ukraine cannot completely refuse from nuclear energy — we have neither technical nor financial resources for this at present. To date nuclear power comprises approximately 13% in energy balance of Ukraine and for the electricity this figure comprises approximately 48%. However we have a chance with the Chernobyl exclusion zones to make some bold steps into a more renewable and sustainable future”, — stated Dave Young EUEA chairmain and General Director of INS, company that specializes in renewable energy projects.


Experts are proposing to use the land laying fallow in the exclusion zones for growing biomass to generate electricity. Belarus put one third of its contaminated lands back into use but only after expensive remedial treatments. In the exclusion zone in Ukraine there is 260 000 hectares from which it is roughly estimated up to 50% could be used for energy crop production. This could supply 200 MW of electricity (which could be equated to enough power to supply  400 000 households, or in combined heat and power terms, 500 Mw which is the output of one block of a small atomic power plant )

Dave Young comments: “The solution would bring money to the local economy and employment. Such a scheme would multiply many times renewable energy generated in Ukraine and show a serious commitment to green energy.”

In addition, other schemes to control the risk of forest fires releasing captured radiation are being considered by controlled burning and filtration systems to clean the smoke. These same schemes could complement each other and provide even further energy that would be otherwise wasted.

Thus, on 18 March 2011, the Memorandum of Cooperation between State exclusion zone management agency, Wageningen University and Research Centre*  (the Netherlands), Institute of Biomass and Sustainable Development (established this spring under the support of Bioenergy centre of Poltava Agrarian Academy) and PhytoFuels Investments (Belgo-Ukrainian company for biomass  growing and application) was signed. «The main task of such memorandum is reclamation of radioactive contaminated exclusion zone lands by growing energy crops to be treated further into biofuel. Application of half of that zone for growing energy crops would give energy equivalent of 0,8 billions cubic meters of gas. This won't solve energy problems of Ukraine ( gas import comprises 33 billion cubic meters) but this is more than majority of green projects (approximately 200MW of electricity and up to 300MW of heat) can expect. The main factor here is that those lands (zones) cannot be applied for other purposes (particularly food) as they are too radioactive and their radiological recovery is quite an expensive issue”, — explains Loic Lerminiaux, co-founder of  PhytoFuels Investments.

Experts also note that interest in development of Chornobyl zone satisfies one of the major questions in the production of  biofuel being  lack of competition for food production lands. «This is one of the most critical criteria of sustainability in accordance with biofuel standards because the latter is frequently blamed for indirect food price increase caused by application of corn and grain for bioethanol production or reduction of land dedicated for food crops— explains Loic Lerminiaux, — and Ukraine doesn’t possess significant reserve of cropland dedicated not for food crops. The task of the state is to assign low-productive, eroded and degraded lands to non-productive to allow the companies to apply them for growing energy crops in accordance with international standards of sustainability and return of VAT credits during export operations and in the meantime resolve current ecological problems. Besides energy crops can be applied for improvement of poor  and overused land». Expert clarifies: “The unused energy potential for biomass in the exclusion zones of Chernobyl is greater than one of the smaller nuclear plants at Rovne”
The topicality of energy efficiency problems and energy saving technologies in Ukraine will gather EUEA experts together with representatives of the European Commission, government of Ukraine, Energy Community Secretariat, business community and donor organizations at the 2nd European-Ukrainian Energy Day, annual event in energy efficiency and renewable energy sector, that will be held on 31 May-1 June 2011 at InterContinental hotel (Kiev). The organizers are European-Ukrainian Energy Agency (EUEA) and Conference House. Supported by the State Agency of Ukraine for Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving. Despite the fact that such event was held for the first time last year, it has gathered approximately 300 participants from more than 10 countries. This gives evidence to the topicality of discussed issues and the necessity of permanent dialogue between major market players.

References:
*Wageningen University and Research Centre — Dutch research centre which is the leader in investigations of agricultural and bioenergy sectors. In 2000 it participated in International Consortium on elaboration of programs for reclamation of radioactive contaminated lands by means of growing biomass at commercial scale with establishment of trials in Belarus. However at that time low interest in biofuel and its low selling price have led to low project profitability.

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