Fuel Economies Hold out a Hope for Eastern Europe
Land, Thomas, Contemporary Review
CITY scale energy efficiency demonstration schemes in the Russian Federation may well become the centre piece of a comprehensive global programme to restrict environmental pollution. The demonstrations are part of a three-year programme co-ordinated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) with help from Western industry to reduce the vast energy efficiency gap dividing Eastern and Central European countries from their Western neighbours. The UN's Economic and Social Council now proposes to widen the programme to make its benefits available worldwide.
Overall energy intensity -- energy consumption per unit of gross national product -- has been much higher in Eastern and Central Europe than in the market economies. According to an authoritative recent estimate published by the Colorado School of Mines, the former Soviet Union alone should be capable of saving in all types of energy the equivalent of a staggering 12m barrels of oil per day.
The 1973 and 1979 oil price rise shocks which have fuelled the development of energy saving techniques and services in the West were not experienced by the Soviet Union and its European satellites. Their industries were protected by their collective wealth in primary energy resources supporting ideologically inspired price subsidies which in turn encouraged inefficiency and pollution.
Today, the same countries are undergoing painful transition to market economies, facing steep energy price rises at the outset of winter as well as widespread consequent hardship and social unrest. But the prospect of substantial energy economies offers them a solution.
Their efforts now to catch up with the energy efficiency standards of the West could indirectly benefit many rapidly industrializing poor countries by providing them with a useful development model.
Eastern and Central Europe faces 'many of the same energy problems as the developing countries', comments the influential Washington-based World Resources Institute in an important recent analysis. 'They too face sharply increasing energy demands, with the resultant increase in debts, capital constraints and growing environmental threats. The efficiency with which energy services are provided is well below that achieved in the rest of the industrialized world, and thus energy efficiency creates attractive opportunities in these countries'.
Increasing the energy efficiency does not mean that energy supplies are reduced nor that energy services are cut off. Rather, the energy required to provide a given service is reduced by improving the efficiency of that service, for example by providing refrigeration with more efficient compressors. This stretches the effect of power supplies.
The energy required to make steel has been two to three times greater in Eastern and Central Europe than in the West. The same is also true for the integrated steel plants in India and China, which are among the biggest steel producers of the developing world. The Institute reckons that with proper design and operation many new industrial plants in both the developing and the transition economies could reduce fuel consumption by 30 per cent or more and achieve even greater savings using state of the art industrial processes.
The energy sector bears a major responsibility for environmental problems in Eastern and Central Europe, concludes a study published by the World Bank. Pollution has reduced life expectancy in Russia from 70.4 years in 1964 to 69.3 years in 1990, adds the first comprehensive report on the environment compiled by Moscow. In some badly polluted cities, life expectancy has shrunk to 44 years.
Probably the most dramatic component of the ECE's Energy Efficiency 2000 programme is the mounting of city-scale demonstration projects in Russia under the authority of the Ministry of Fuel and Energy and the Ministry of Science, Higher Education and Technical Policy.
In Tushino, a Moscow suburb, the housing and service sector buildings serving 100,000 inhabitants will be rehabilitated by the end of 1994. …