Oleksiy Shostak, the mayor of Malyn, a city located in north central Ukraine, smiled with satisfaction as he watched a group of third graders leaving Malyn School #1. This past winter, three schools in the city switched from natural gas to biofuel heating.
Shostak glanced at the boiler house, which provides heat for the schools’ 1,700 students. “I think the city will have no trouble meeting the new restrictions on imported natural gas,” he said. “This will also allow us to cut municipal heating costs.”
In 2012, Russian natural gas was increasing in price and supply was becoming vulnerable to political disagreements. That’s when the Zhytomyr Regional Council turned to the USAID Public-Private Partnership Development Program for help to convert municipal boiler houses from imported natural gas to locally produced biofuel. The council needed help to attract funds and expertise from the private sector.
Switching to locally available biofuel, such as wood or straw pellets, had the potential to reduce expenses while ensuring a reliable supply of heating fuel. USAID selected Malyn, which is located in Zhytomyr oblast, for a pilot project to test a newly developed business model known as a public-private partnership (PPP), which leverages the expertise and resources of the private sector.
“Zhytomyr oblast has a wealth of wood and agricultural byproducts, and it is shame to waste it by using natural gas for heating,” said Georgiy Geletukha, head of the Bioenergy Association of Ukraine. “With these resources, it shouldn’t take Ukraine long to substitute up to 18 percent of its natural gas use with local biofuel.”