Eco style
Energy cooperatives in Ukraine - fact or fiction?

«There are many myths and stereotypes around renewable energy. One of them is that only millionaires can become investors in renewable energy. But is it true?» – talk show «Light Energy» on OBOZ TV began exactly with such words.

In this program Andrey Kashpur together with his guests Andrii Zinchenko, co-founder of the «Greencubator» and Iurii Fomichev, the mayor of Slavutych, researched the topic of energy cooperatives.

For many adult Ukrainians the word «cooperative» associates with the end of the eighties, when, after the announcement of «perestroika» in Soviet Union, various cooperatives began to emerge massively: from the clothes sewing to the machine tool production. For even older Ukrainians the «cooperative» is a network of stores and markets where agricultural products were sold. But in fact, cooperatives and cooperative movement have much older history and were born long before the eighties and the USSR.
Today the cooperative movement all over the world brings together millions of people and generates products and services for billions. So what the cooperatives are and what is energy cooperative?

By definition, a cooperative is a voluntary association for conducting joint economic and other activities on the basis of self management. The keywords here are «voluntary» and «self management». In fact, the cooperative movement itself originated in the nineteenth century as an opportunity to combine resources in difficult economic conditions. The idea of cooperatives lies in the fact that by joint efforts we can do things that are not possible for each individually.

According to one version, the cooperative movement originated with the emergence of the first consumer cooperative – the Society of Fair Rochdale Pioneers, which was founded in 1844 in Rochdale (England) and had a registered statute. One of the pioneers of the cooperative movement was Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, founder of the well-known Raiffeisen Bank. In Ukraine the first cooperative was registered in 1866 in Kharkiv – it was Kharkiv consumer society.

Nowadays hundreds of thousands of different cooperatives work successfully all over the world. There is even an International Day of Cooperatives, which is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July. This movement is also reviving in Ukraine. It is quite natural that in the field of renewable energy there is a birth or restoration of cooperative society – a voluntary unification of resources on the principles of self- management.

It is also quite natural that the first municipal energy cooperative was created in Slavutich, the youngest city in Ukraine, the city of power engineers. The initiators of this project were NGO Greencubator and the municipality of Slavutych. Andrii Zinchenko (co-founder of Greencubator and chairman of the energy co-operative) and Iurii Fomichev (city mayor of Slavutych) told to the audience of the talk show why the energy cooperative was created and what was beneficial for people.

Andrii Zinchenko, co-founder of Greencubator

Andrii Zinchenko adds that such cooperatives is a widespread world practice. In Germany only from 2001 to 2015 more than a thousand of such cooperatives were created, and the number of people they united was over 150 thousand.
The benefits are obvious: a person gets an opportunity to become a participant of a socially useful business – the generation of green, clean energy. It's an opportunity to get a guaranteed income from your investments and take part in improving the environment. Andrii Zinchenko is convinced that cooperatives raise people's sense of civic responsibility and cooperation with others. This is exactly what Ukrainians need now! Energy cooperative generates not only electric energy, but also social energy.

Iurii Fomichev, city mayor of Slavutych

How was it possible to unite people, especially Ukrainians, with our typical «two Ukrainians - three hetmans»?

According to Iurii Fomichev, it is simple. It is important that it is a municipality cooperative. It means that it is built in cooperation with the city community and already has a material foundation – municipal buildings, on the roofs of which solar panels will be located. Another important factor is trust, which is built on confirmed intentions. Both city managers and public organizations have a number of successful projects in their assets. Therefore, the energy cooperation project is based on a solid foundation of experience and success.

It is likely that practical experience dictates the initiators of the project to be reserved in assessments and promises. Both Andrii and Iurii are very modest in advertising their project and its profitability for the members of the cooperative. They prefer to promise less than not to meet people's expectations. However, even their clearly underestimated profitability looks quite attractive – the return of the invested money in 4-5 years and then another 5-7 years – net profit to the members of the cooperative.

So how to become a member of the cooperative?

In spring 2019, a fundraising campaign will be announced – the start of fundraising for the construction of the first stage of solar plant. People from Slavutych will have priority. The estimated value of one unit is 15 thousand UAH, which is a real figure for a working person. If the Slavutych people do not buy all the shares and some of them will remain free, then other Ukrainians will be able to become a member of the energy cooperative.

«But for every Ukrainian there is a simple and guaranteed opportunity to become a member of our cooperative – you can just move to Slavutych», jokes Iurii, but his joke is «half-meant». Today Slavutych is one of the most comfortable cities for living and has a well-developed infrastructure.

The construction of solar plants is appointed to beginning of summer 2019. And then, without wasting any time, immediately proceed with the design work on the next queues of the solar plants. Their experience and a successful example of the project team plans to share with other Ukrainian cities. So, completing the talk show Andrii Kashpur sincerely advised the audience: «Call your mayor and ask him or her: when it will be an energy cooperative in our city?»

Source of information on energy cooperatives: «German energy turn» Arguments for a renewable energy future Craig Morris, Martin Pehnt Heinrich Belle Foundation Initiative