Belarus School Runs on Energy Savings

January 16, 2013

Irina Oleinik, Communications Officer in the Belarus World Bank Office, offers this story.

The latest edition of the school newspaper at Gomel School Number 40 is almost done. Student reporter Yulia is finishing up a story about 9th grader Lesha, who switches off his family's electrical appliances whenever they are not in use. As a result, electricity bills at Lesha's home dropped by 250,000 rubles, the equivalent of $30; his parents bought him a cell phone with the money they saved. Lesha dreams of buying a computer with future savings.

Conserving energy is taught along with other subjects at schools in Gomel, thanks to government energy efficiency program supported by the World Bank.

Gomel boasts the country's first energy savings museum and even has an energy savings theme song. In April 2011, the city hosted the final round of a nationwide school competition for energy savings projects. School Number 40 was asked to share their experience with teachers and students from all over Belarus.

" I have already saved 78,000 rubles by turning off unnecessary appliances! "


Sixth grader

Students explained how they developed an energy plan – 270 Days of Frugality – for each school day. They have a resource "piggy bank," where they add up their energy savings. On Wednesday nights, pupils turn off lights and disconnect electric appliances in their apartments for five minutes.

Teacher Dmitri V. Kolesnikov created an energy savings club. Students and teachers collect cards on which they record useful ways to save resources. Sixth grader Grigori writes: "I have already saved 78,000 rubles by turning off unnecessary appliances." Alexandra, another sixth grader, notes: "I used an energy calculator to calculate that it was cheaper to take a shower than a bath; now our family saves by taking showers."

At the end of the year, children who have saved the most or come up with the best ideas receive awards.

First graders keep diaries of small discoveries and achievements in saving electricity, water and family funds. First grader Anya writes: "My Dad and I close air vents when Mom is not cooking, and the house becomes warmer." Together with their parents, children inspected boilers and furnaces at their homes and analyzed ways to save.

Older students developed advanced energy-saving technologies along with models that actually work. One is an interactive map of the country's energy generation sources. It includes combined heat and power plants, hydroelectric stations, wind machines and a projected nuclear power plant.

Principal Zinaida Kutsanova comments on her school's energy saving ways: "Our children are not simply doing what they're told without thinking; this grabs their attention, they grasp it quickly and teach it to their parents, siblings and friends. Changes started occurring both inside and outside school premises. Now we can safely say that those participating include pupils and their parents, as well as local residents."

Gomel is a model for other school districts, and it is far from alone. Belarus adopted an energy efficiency law allowing the establishment of a nationwide information and educational program for energy savings. Lessons on energy savings have become routine in kindergartens and schools.

Rational energy use is logical and critical. Belarus' economy depends on energy imports—up to 80 percent. Leonid V. Shenets, Energy Efficiency Department Director says: "Belarus has been recognized in Europe as one of the countries most actively tackling energy efficiency issues. In the early 1990s, Belarus was the most energy intensive country in the Former Soviet Union, with energy consumption as high as 690 kgoe (kilograms of oil equivalent) per thousand dollars of GDP. In 2010, Belarus brought this indicator down to 230 kgoe."

The World Bank has worked with Belarus on energy savings since 1999. During this time, $110 million was allocated for energy savings measures like new boilers and replacement lights and windows at 1,000 schools, hospitals and kindergartens. Average electricity savings from replacing lighting was 55%, while self-regulating boilers with automatic controls cut costs by 15%. Investments in heating units were recouped in just over a year, investments in lighting upgrades paid for themselves in six years.