Moldova has few energy resources. To supply citizens, businesses and government with power, the country has to import oil, natural gas, coal and electricity. And Moldova has had to adjust to a dramatic shift from Soviet times, when cheap energy discounted the need for energy efficient homes and commercial buildings, and the politics of giving people free energy trumped the economics of delivery and use.
The post-Soviet shift to higher energy prices meant that for most of the 1990s hospitals, schools and other social institutions left their dwellers shivering in the cold. Once wealthy state-owned industrial facilities went bankrupt or put locks on their doors altogether, while citizens—many of them impoverished—faced power cuts and struggled to pay utility bills.
Solving these challenges fell to Moldova's policymakers. A steady supply of electricity was needed for citizens and industry—in order for industry to be productive and competitive. And the state had to find ways to heat social institutions and to make heat and light affordable for the home user. At first, domestic consumers' utility bills were subsidized, which accrued a large public debt.
Making existing buildings more energy efficient is one solution that the Moldovan Government has been working on with support from the World Bank and the government of Sweden. The Energy II project is improving heating and lighting systems in public buildings. New boilers, windows and other improvements have been made in 23 schools and 12 medical institutions, benefiting over 27,000 students and teachers, and about 1.2 million patients, staff and visitors.
One beneficiary, the main hospital in the town of Orhei, received about $650,000 to modernize its heating system.