Easy: open or close the windows, and stop complaining. Actually, a full 50% of the energy used to heat Kyiv’s centralised hot water supply gets wasted in the transfer pipes that carry the water from the city’s massive central heating facilities to your taps and radiators. That doesn’t seem to bother anyone, however, at Kyivenergo, the company that monopolises Kyiv’s power and hot water, presiding over a gargantuan system of hot-water generation and distribution. Though it’s grown a lot, the system has operated according to the same logic since it was created as a huge public works project back in the Stalin era, when the USSR was rapidly modernising. Specifically, the cumbersome system was born in 1935, when work began on the city’s main water pipe. In 1936, the first line of the Kyiv Heat Station, now known as CT-1, was completed. A city that was still largely heated by wood and coal burned house by house in fireplaces and stoves began to receive government hot water, region by region. Also in 1936, the socalled Kyiv Heat-Electric Central went on line, and in the summer of 1940 started providing hot water to the capital’s apartments and communal homes. The city’s heating system was severely sabotaged by the Nazis before Kyiv’s liberation, but by the midfifties the number of residents it served was twice what it had been in the 1930s, and there were 38 kilometres’ worth of pipes snaking around and under the city.
In the early 1970s, Kyivenergo built a couple of huge water boilers around the city – like the ‘Nikolska Borschagovka’ and ‘Vinogradar’ boilers. Around this time gigantic new central pipes were built to connect the several huge plants where water was (and is) brought to a boil with the city’s neighbourhoods and industrial facilities. The system was getting ever bigger. The year 1972 saw the establishment of a ‘central dispatch point’ for some of the huge quantities of boiling water flowing around the city, as well as the setting-up of equipment to control the potentially hazardous networks. By the 1980s, Kyivenergo was among the
Kyiv has to decide whether to replace its power stations or decentralise the heat-supply system, making it like systems elsewhere in the world
handful of biggest suppliers of hot water and electricity in the world. Nowadays Kyivenergo’s heating system has three so-called ‘heat stations’ and seven regional boiler stations, which contain 43 boilers of various strengths. Distribution and transportation of hot water to consumers are fulfilled via a pipeline network that’s 4400 kilometres long. The system hasn’t stopped growing, either. Over the course of the last year, Kyivenergo installed 75 heat metering and control units and laid 13.95 kilometres’ of new pipe. The agency brags that it saved 1,046 tons of standard fuel last year, due to efficiency measures that kept heat in the pipes, and not seeping out into the ground. As the city develops, Kyivenergo says, there will be new power plants, heating networks and pumping stations.
The agency will also put in powerful new equipment at the pumping stations, and install support valves on existing sections of the grid. Whatever Kyivenergo does, however, it can’t change the fact that many of Kyiv’s heat-power stations are very old. Half were built before 1965, and sooner or later the ancient oil and gas shale production units will have to be replaced. Kyiv will then face serious increases in hot water production prices. At the same time, Ukraine has been having problems renovating its district heating systems. Prices are going up and many consumers have converted to other heating sources, such as electricity. In the long-term, Kyiv has to decide whether to replace its old oil and gas shale power stations with new centralised production units, some of them perhaps nuclear, or whether water and heat services should be decentralised, making them like they are almost everywhere else in the developed world. The latter solution would be the most efficient, but Ukrainians are used to their old Soviet centralised heating system – and to opening their apartment windows in January – so what’s going to happen is anyone’s guess.