Sustainable Energy: Lighting a Path to the Future
- By Elmira Kuznetsova
- Mar. 16 2010 00:00
The expertise in the field of sustainable energy wielded by Dutch technology giant Philips has become so advanced that their researchers are able to devote just as much attention to beautifying the planet as they do to saving it.
"We are currently developing a street lamp in the form of a flower blossom that opens up during the day and gathers energy from the sun, then closes up at night and lights the streets," described Tatyana Li, communications manager at Philips Lighting Eastern Europe. "When a person approaches, the lamp shines brighter, reacting to its environs."
How soon these sorts of lamps and other advanced technologies in the realm of sustainable energy make their appearance in Russia depends to a large extent on the initiative of Russian companies, because while there exists enormous potential for the use of energy-effective technologies in Russia, the government has no one spurring on a green revolution. Given the absence of such leadership, the private sector is forced to bear the torch — and that's where Dutch energy companies come in.
The Netherlands has plenty to share with Russian industry in the sphere of energy-efficient technologies, which Dutch firms have been developing since the early 1990s. According to the Netherlands Bureau of Statistics, renewable energy use made up 3.4 percent of overall energy consumption in the country in 2008. The government has aimed to increase that figure to 20 percent by 2020.
Dutch company Philips is the current leader in the development of energy-efficient technologies in Russia. Since 1980, the internationally famous firm has produced fluorescent lamps that use 20 percent of the energy consumed by a standard light bulb but that emit lamp light of a brightness similiar to that of an incandescent bulb. They cost a bit more than standard bulbs, but the price is justified by the longer glow life they have (up to 10 years) and by the swiftness with which the investment in them is paid off by the savings in energy costs they generate.
With fluorescent lighting now installed in the majority of Russian office buildings and industrial facilities, the company is becoming more active in projects that utilize its other sustainable-energy technologies. For instance, last year, Philips renovated the electrical systems of four M.Video outlets, allowing them to cut electricity costs by 75 percent.
Solutions from Philips are used for the decorative accent lighting of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in the Moscow Kremlin as well as of the Senate and Synod buildings in St. Petersburg, and Philips has been working with the State Hermitage Museum since 1898, when the company first installed 50,000 carbon arc lamps to light the Winter Palace. At the beginning of this year, Philips signed a new agreement with the Hermitage to carry out more work there.
Despite the fact that energy-efficient bulbs are not exactly household items in Russia yet, Philips believes that demand for them will soon increase.
"One important factor is the elevation of people's education and knowledge of the subject," explained Vladimir Gabrielyan, vice president and general manager of Philips Lighting in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia. "Moreover, electricity prices will become deregulated by 2011, and that will undoubtedly compel people to think about how to reduce expenses on it."
Another key factor for arranging projects with firms and other enterprises is the provision of incentives by the state.
"At the moment, our government is only announcing and establishing standards, and they are only recommendations — they are not obligatory," Gabrielyan said. "In many countries, the legislation was put into place long ago."
Jeroen Ketting, director of Lighthouse, a company that since 1999 has been assisting Western firms conduct business in Russia, agrees with Gabrielyan's assessment.
"Energy efficiency in the West came about thanks to subsidies, effective legislation, regulations and best practices, tax incentives and public awareness campaigns. In Russia, all these factors crucial to the development of more efficient energy use have been lacking up to today," said Ketting.
"According to the official Russian Energy Strategy to 2020, present-day energy consumption in Russia could be lowered by 40 percent to 48 percent, or 360 to 430 million tons of coal equivalents, in 2020 through effective energy efficiency measures and structural changes in the Russian economy," Ketting added. "That means that almost half of Russian energy consumption could be conserved if the country's energy-saving potential were fully realized."
Lighthouse works actively in Russia in the heating-supply sector and in reducing fuel leakage, contributing to the reduction of electricity consumption. Together with engineering firm Gasunie and consulting firm Royal Haskoning, Ketting's company carried out a complete energy audit for the Moscow region town of Troitska, thanks to which the municipality saved almost 7 million cubic meters of gas over the course of two years. In another project, the company attacked the issue of leakage in the Mosgaz group's gas distribution system, which is the largest system of its kind in all of Europe. Seepage was able to be reduced by half as a result of their work.
"Our client base in the energy sector largely consists of Russian companies as it is there where the largest energy efficiency gains can be achieved," said Ketting.
In 2007, together with the Russian firm Kotlomontazhservice, Lighthouse started a venture called Lighthouse Energy Investments. Specially for the new venture, they developed a measurement laboratory designed to be used for conducting a complex energy audit for its facilities. It is the only laboratory of its kind in Russia, and with it they can measure emissions of harmful substances and energy consumption levels, and on the basis of these measurements formulate methods for protecting the environment. Discussing the results of these projects, Ketting declared them successful in the sense that they were the first of their kind in Russia.
"The projects are also successful in the sense that we have managed to actually save considerable amounts of energy," said Ketting. "However, most projects that we have done would not have come to fruition without the financial support of the Dutch government and the international financial institutions."
Another Dutch company that manages heating-supply projects is Grontmij, the largest consulting firm in the Netherlands. Specialists from Grontmij developed renovation projects for heating systems in Mytishi (contracted by Mytishi Heating OJSC) and Kaliningrad (for the Kaliningradenergoset corporation with financial support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development).
"There are different approaches for the projects in each location. All of them benefit the environment by lower waste of energy and more efficient utilization of fuel. And the potential is big," said Peter Sonne, manager for heating-supply projects at Grontmij Carl Bro, a daughter company of the Dutch firm.
According to Sonne, the company encountered problems with outdated legal regulations and standards when working on projects in Russia. As a result, the program envisaged for Kaliningrad has for now been suspended in the development stage, although in Mytishi the new technologies have already been integrated into the city's utilities.
The general consensus among those involved in the business of saving energy is that it may take some time yet before legislation in Russia supports their goals. One hope the industry holds, however, is that a younger generation of officials will share the awareness and drive of their private-sector counterparts.
"It's easy for us to work with young specialists and managers of a younger generation," admitted Philips' Gabrielyan. "It's easier to talk to those who know how to count."