Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Ukraine energy plan

This is news to me, but it looks like Ukraine has an energy plan. The shock produced by Gazprom in January must have shaken some people awake.

Gazprom's price move was seen here as Moscow's revenge for Ukraine's so-called Orange Revolution, which led to the election of a Western-friendly government in 2004. Gazprom, in which the Russian government holds a controlling stake, denies any political motivation. But the effect has been that Ukraine, which has a population of 50 million, has quickly produced a program to reduce gas consumption. It has set up a new energy-efficiency agency to direct the plan and is pouring government money into efforts to carry it out.

"My inbox is filled with letters from metals and chemicals companies asking for help in cutting their energy use," says Yevgen Sukhin, the new agency's chief.

The kicker? Same old, same old:

There are big obstacles to carrying out all of Ukraine's plans. Financing can be hard to get where companies and local authorities are poorly audited, often unprofitable and often corrupt. Ukraine's political instability has consistently undermined government plans. "We've had a lot of broken promises," says Stanislav Potapenko, program coordinator in Ukraine for a nonprofit organization called Alliance to Save Energy, though he says attitudes are changing.

That should read "poorly audited, unprofitable and corrupt" to make the point clear. Those three travel together.

But if they have gotten as far along already as they have with outside contractors, such as Alfa Laval AB, working to solve problems, it does look like some attitudes have changed. Things don't usually happen that fast. Maybe January and the Kremlin sobered the right people up. Let's hope so.

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