The Sun in allies: how residents of the private sector can save on electricity bills

February 12, 2021

Nina, the owner of a private entity using solar panels, shows the setting. Photo: UNDP Kyrgyzstan.

Bishkek is actively being built up. Construction companies commission new high-rise buildings almost every day. The private sector is also growing: more and more modern mansions appear on the outskirts of the city. At the same time, electricity consumption is growing too. New houses are connected to the existing power grids but it is simply not designed for so many facilities. Domestic power engineers warn of a possible crisis.

Recently, the National Power network of Kyrgyzstan stated that the republic has reached the peak of electricity consumption during the entire existence of the energy system. Regular equipment overloads could lead to rolling blackouts becoming a new reality for residents of the capital in the near future. To avoid negative consequences, it is recommended to save the energy.

But what about the owners of private houses, in which not only lighting depends on electricity, but also the supply of heat and the availability of hot water in the tap? The answer is simple: you need to switch to alternative, environmentally friendly energy sources, as the married cpouple Strizhenkovs did.

The young family moved into their new house in the metropolitan area known as Kyrgyzia-1 last fall after the finishing work was done. The modern, spacious mansion became the embodiment of their dream of a cozy habitation.

- We've been carrying out construction for two years. And, as you can see, there's still a lot of work to be done," Nina Strizhenkova says.

Despite the impressive size of the house, it is very warm. The owner of the house is dressed in light clothing. In addition, she allows her little son to play on the floor without any worry. Whereas, it's a snowy winter in Bishkek with freezing temperatures - according to the app on her smartphone, the temperature outside has dropped to -11 degrees.

Her husband Nikolai is responsible for the solar plant, and Nina talks about her intention to arrange their household in accordance  with the rules of ecology and energy saving. For instance, she is now installing a household waste sorting system.

- So far I am only been able to sort out the paper, but eventually, I hope, I’d be able to sort all household waste, - she says.

She confesses that she is looking forward to spring to set up a compost pit on her plot and also to try out other "green" technologies.

When Nikolai arrives, he shows us what is probably the most important room in the house - the boiler room. We go down into the bright, modernly equipped room which provides heat for the entire house.

- When we made a project for the house and went to “Severelektro”, we were told that they could only allocate 15 kW. But we needed at least 25 kW to cover all our needs - for water heating, house heating, electrical appliances. Because of the power shortage, we had to think what we could do to save on electricity consumption, - said the man.

Finding a solution was helped by chance: Nikolay saw an advertisement for solar collectors from the company and became interested. He searched for information about solar installations on the Internet, asked his colleagues and friends. He found out that some of his acquaintances had already installed the panels in their homes and were happy with them.

Hereupon, the man was determined to use this technology for his own needs.

- He turned to the experts. The company made all the calculations and suggested installing a combined boiler house. As a result, the house can be heated with electricity, gas, coal and solar energy," says Nikolay.

As a result, a heat pump, coal and gas boilers were installed in the cottage. Four solar collectors were installed on the south side of the roof to provide the house with hot water. In the boiler room itself there is a water tank connected to the solar plant, as well as a control panel. 

- All this allows us to keep within the allocated 15 kW and even some power remains. If we used classic heating and hot water systems, we wouldn't have enough energy," says the owner.

It is widely accepted that alternative energy sources for a private houses are expensive, because even in social institutions in our country such installations appear mostly due to the support of donors.

For example, in the Nizhne-Serafimovskiy social care facility for the elderly people and people with disabilities or in the school in the village of Eshperovo, Issyk-Kul region, solar collectors were installed under the UNDP project "Development of Small and Medium Enterprises for Access to Energy", implemented by the Center for RES and Energy Efficiency (CREEED), based on the experience of the UNDP "Green Village" initiative, implemented in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan for the past two years. The project is funded by OFID (Opec Fund for International Development).

Meanwhile, the Small and Medium Enterprise Development for Energy Access project doesn't just work as a donor program. One of its components aims to develop the domestic market for sustainable energy solutions by providing access to finance and business models for clean energy providers and users of energy services. In partnership with various local and international partners, the program created a virtual platform for financing access to energy, on which, that installed solar collectors in the Strizhenkov’s family house, is among the proven providers of green technology.

Therefore, thanks to the work of the project, more and more high-quality and affordable business proposals related to renewable energy sources are appearing in Kyrgyzstan. And as the market grows, the prices for energy-efficient house equipment go down.

- Yes, this is not a small one-time investment, but it quickly pays off for itself. We have Chinese equipment installed: it runs smoothly and it costs several times less than its European alternative. I think that in two years the solar collectors will fully justify itself, given the fact that for a half of the year we use hot water for free with the whole family. From my own experience, I can say that the volume of heated water is enough for two families. When my sister's house was renovated last summer, she with her husband and children came to bath at our place. In the end, hot water was quietly enough for everyone, - recalls Nikolai Strizhenkov.

Nina and Nikolai point out that heating of a private house is really difficult and important issue. But it can be solved even in conditions of energy shortage, as renewable energy sources are becoming more and more accessible. After all, it is bizzare not to use solar energy in a country where the sun is active more than 300 days a year.