In Moldova, big plans for biomass
The kindergarten in the village of Ermoclia has declared its independence. Energy independence, that is. Instead of struggling to keep students warm with expensive imported gas, the kindergarten now heats up with locally produced biomass fuels.
- Already, nearly 120 villages in 26 districts have begun the conversion to biomass in Moldova.
- So far, over 75,000 people are beneficiaries of this initiative.
- More than 200 new jobs have been created.
It’s good for the children and the environment too. And the cost of heating the school has fallen by half.
"It is nice to come to the kindergarten," says Mihaita, a smiling four-year-old boy. "It’s warmer than at home. I will tell my mom and dad to heat our house the same way."
The school in Ermoclia was the first public institution in Moldova heated with biomass energy through a UNDP project to increase its use.
"[We are at] the beginning of the large-scale use of biomass fuels," says Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Valeriu Lazar.
"Besides reducing the consumption of imported energy sources, we are introducing agricultural residues into the economic cycle. These will no longer be perceived as waste, but as a new business opportunity and source of income."
Reducing energy dependency
For years, Moldova struggled with the burden of importing 95 percent of its fuel. When gas was cheaper, national policies promoted its use, including by connecting almost all rural communities to gas lines. Then prices began to soar, skyrocketing six times over the past six years.
The Government responded with a commitment to increase the share of renewable energy to up to 20 percent of national consumption by 2020. (Moldova is part of the global Sustainable Energy for All initiative)
Much of this can come from biomass fuel made from readily available agricultural waste such as straw, corn stalks and sawdust. Biomass has the added benefit of being carbon neutral, so it does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
With support from the European Union, and in partnership with national authorities, UNDP launched the Moldova Energy and Biomass project, the country’s most ambitious attempt to promote renewable energy.
Started in 2011, the initiative is designed to help 130 public institutions, including schools and health centres, with heating from biomass fuels, all in compliance with European Union emissions standards.
Already, nearly 120 villages in 26 districts have begun the conversion, with benefits for over 75,000 people—such as the children from Ermoclia. More than 200 jobs were created as a result of the new biomass heating systems.
New ways, new businesses
Besides encouraging cleaner, more accessible and more secure supplies of energy, the project has another target: new businesses and jobs.
In Carbalia, a small village with 500 inhabitants, the local community centre went unheated in the winter until a biomass system arrived. A local entrepreneur then saw an investment opportunity to produce briquettes.
At first, Igor Chirilenco was not sure that such a business would be viable, since biomass heating is so new to Moldova. But once the systems were in place, both at the community centre and at a local kindergarten, he approached UNDP for support.
He learned about developing a business plan and calculating when investments might be recouped, and he acquired the technical skills to transform plant waste into usable fuel.
In 2012, the Government established the Energy Efficiency Fund to finance community projects on energy efficiency and renewable energy.