05:55 GMT29 October 2020
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    Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers has proposed lowering the minimum allowable temperature in dwellings with central heating to 16 degrees Celsius this winter, with the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Health now tasked with reviewing existing norms, Ukrainian media have reported.

    Ukrainian economist Alexander Ohrimenko voiced his discontent over the measure, telling news website Vesti that lowering the temperatures from the present norm of 18 degrees Celsius (a common engineering standard for apartment dwellings in many post-Soviet countries) would allow the government to save a great deal of money, but at a tremendous social cost.

    "Two degrees is a lot. Apartments will be very cold, and the government will be able to save a lot, and everything will be legal. People will be paying for the cold according to new, higher tariffs."

    The expert added that the country's heating system was not designed for such an artificial lowering of temperatures, which could result in an increase in the number of accidents in the country's heating network this winter.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk earlier admitted that Ukraine's energy sector is facing a crisis, and that the Ministry of Energy and state-owned companies are not adequately prepared to provide the population with heating this winter. The Ministry of Energy has established a crisis management center to prepare for the heating season. Ukraine's energy crisis has been exacerbated by Kiev's loss of the majority of its profitable coal mines in the Donbass region. The mines which remain under Ukraine's control extract coal which is unsuitable for use by power plants.

    Earlier this month, it was reported that Ukrainian authorities were prepared to consider purchasing coal from Russia, and the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic. The head of Ukraine's national electric utility Ukrenergo noted late last month that it may be forced to begin temporary electricity shut-offs for up to two-and-a-half hours at a time if the country is unable to maintain adequate coal reserves.

    At the same time, the European Integration Department of Ukraine's Ministry of Energy and the Coal Industry has been boasting that Ukraine could survive the winter without any Russian gas, if necessary. On July 1, Ukraine suspended its purchases from Russian gas giant Gazprom, with the two sides unable to reach an agreement on prices for the third quarter of 2015 after Kiev demanded a $100 discount per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. The Russian side offered a discount of $70, saying that tumbling oil prices have made heavier discounts economically unviable. Ukraine is presently receiving reverse gas flows from Slovakia, in smaller volumes.

    Over the past year, gas tariffs have jumped 500 percent, and the International Monetary Fund has conditioned its loans to Ukraine's battered economy on additional hikes in utilities rates. Since April, the Ministry of Regional Development has observed a growth in hot water tariffs by 55-57 percent, on cold water by 25 percent, and on heating by 73 percent. Over the next two years, electricity prices are also set to jump 350 percent.

    Former EU Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen told German media last week that the winter season may portend heating shortages and power outages, which could result in a serious political and social crisis in Ukraine.


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    gas, coal, fuel shortage, shortage, energy prices, prices, tariffs, central heating, heating, Ministry of Energy, Ukraine's Ministry of Health, Ministry of Regional Development, Kiev, Ukraine
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