Cogeneration and centralized heat supply systems: particularities and benefits for consumers, debate

The authorities drafted a bill on the promotion of cogeneration and centralized heat supply systems, which proposes a series of changes of major interest for both household consumers and apartment building managers, real estate entrepreneurs and other economic agents. These include the possibility for thermal energy units to invest in the reconstruction of internal systems and the equipping of each apartment with individual meters to facilitate the implementation of horizontal distribution, or the implementation of their own heat distribution method. Currently, the internal networks can only be upgraded by the manager of the apartment building. Other provisions of the law refer to the promotion of renewable energy sources, including through the contribution of thermal energy units for the integration of renewable heat production sources with consumers, as well as the obligation of centralized heat supply systems (SACET) to purchase waste heat from industrial processes. The provisions of the bill were discussed at a public debate entitled “Cogeneration and centralized heat supply systems: peculiarities and benefits for consumers”, which was hosted by IPN.

Constantin Borosan, secretary of state of the Ministry of Energy, said that the Law on thermal energy and promotion of cogeneration was approved ten years ago, in 2014. Thus, the authorities decided to update it taking into account the realities of the time, to introduce more innovative elements to offer greater freedom to consumers and to increase the flexibility of the energy system in general. “I want to focus on the thermal energy sector because, out of all the types of energy consumption, thermal energy actually accounts for the largest share of consumption in a household. We have electricity, which represents about 10-15%. We have fuel, which constitutes about 1/3 of the consumption of a household with a car. But it is thermal energy that dominates – about half of the annual consumption in a household,” explained the official.

According to him, depending on the rural and urban environment, individual heating systems are distinguished, but in large cities, where there is compact heat consumption, there are centralized heating systems. Heat is also produced in cogeneration mode. That is, in an installation, when heat is produced, electricity is also produced. “And this bill is about that. All over the continent, district heating systems are promoted across the European Union, along with cogeneration as they produce multiple benefits – economic, environmental and social. So, heat is produced in a residential block and electricity is produced simultaneously. This means that we do not import electricity. It is produced at home and we are not so dependent. Economically, this means an increase in GDP,” said the secretary of state.

According to him, this bill also comes to provide more possibilities for thermal energy consumers to benefit from the desired thermal comfort. Today, the largest part of the housing stock is obsolete, with mono-tubular distribution systems, with a single pipe connecting the heating bodies in each apartment. In case of a technical failure, heat transmission as a whole is affected. “In the draft law, we proposed enabling energy units, in this case “Termoelectrica” and “CET Nord”, to make investments in the residential block in order to change this outdated system for a modern one, with horizontal distribution. It is a bi-tubular system that also allows the individual metering of homes, installation of the meter and conclusion of the contract directly with the supplier. It also permits individual adjustment of thermal comfort in each home, depending on the temperature outside. It will no longer be necessary to open the window and lose heat,” stated Constantin Borosan.

Iulia Chetrușca, the representative of a condominium association, said that in 2023, their block was selected to participate in an EU-funded project implemented by UNDP. It is a large block with over 200 apartments, in which last year an individual heat point was installed and the heat distribution system was changed from a vertical one to a horizontal one. According to her, the significant difference is already felt and the consumption of thermal energy the past cold season decreased by more than 25%.

“Now each dweller has a meter for hot water and a meter for heat. At each radiator there is a thermostat and the person regulates the temperature and uses as much as necessary. The difference in water temperature, in heat on the 1st and 2nd floors is of about 2% compared to the upper floors. It is a big plus compared to the old system, when from the 10th floor to the 5th floor, the dwellers had heat, while from the 4th down, the heat was practically 30-40%. Now all the dwellers have heat. For example, approximately from 2008 until this project, we didn’t have hot water in the block. Now we also have hot water,” said Iulia Chetrușca.

According to her, new individual heat points were installed in the apartment building and the pipes in the basement were changed. Also, the meters were installed free of charge for thermal energy and hot water. Within the project, the dwellers made a contribution of 20%, while 80% were financed by the European Union.

Civic activist Vitalie Voznoi said the current energy inefficiency situation has been attested for years. Many aspects of the new draft law are supported by civil society organizations. It goes to the possibilities offered to consumers, the promotion of renewable energy sources, including through the contribution of thermal energy units. But some aspects need to be improved and civil society has spoken out more than once.

In his opinion, one of the problematic aspects of the bill is related to the fact that to a supplier, such as JSC “Termoelectrica”, the state will offer the exclusive right to execute all projects regarding the installation of heat points horizontally.

“We do not discuss issues related to individual thermal points, the replacement of old pipes, their thermal insulation, which is really necessary, or the thermal insulation of the block. All this is really necessary to achieve greater energy efficiency, but the question is whether the dwellers are offered also other measures for the outdated housing stock,” said the activist. As for individual contracts, according to him, this is also possible in the case of vertical systems and, even if this fact is denied by suppliers, there is no examination to prove it.

According to the Ministry of Energy, in Moldova, the promotion of cogeneration is carried out with the aim of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by simultaneously producing electricity and heat in a single installation. With the support of the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, about €50 million was invested in the centralized heat supply systems in Chisinau and Balti in 2016-2020 and, by 2025, an investment effort of about €110 million will be directed to continue the works to modernize the SACETs.

So far, two public consultations centering on the draft law on the promotion of cogeneration and centralized heat supply systems were held. A new round of consultations was planned to take place tomorrow, May 31, at the Ministry of Energy.

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