Carbon Credits Heat Moldova in Bitterly Cold Winters

January 19, 2016


Children thrive in warmer schools with new and clean boilers.

Photo: World Bank

  • Ground-breaking district heating project in Moldova wins recognition.
  • Project mitigates climate change, generates carbon credits and provides benefits for the rural poor.

The Republic of Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Eastern Europe. It also suffers from bitterly cold winters, with temperatures dipping to well below freezing. This makes keeping public buildings warm both challenging and costly, especially since historically they have been heated using ineff​icient and outdated coal, mazut – a heavy fuel oil - or wood boilers with a deteriorated heat distribution network dating back to Soviet times. Rooms in public buildings are closed off during the coldest months to save on energy. School children and hospital staff suffer, and coal dust causes respiratory infections.

To help improve the situation, the World Bank financed the Moldova Energy Conservation & Emissions Reduction Project​ which contributes to energy savings, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and betters living conditions by installing 317 new and more efficient boilers in public buildings across Moldova, including schools, hospitals and community centers. The goal was to increase the overall heating efficiency by up to 90 percent. It builds on an earlier energy efficiency project to improve heating and lighting in public buildings in Moldova.

The project, implemented by the Moldovan Carbon Finance Unit under the Ministry of Environment, is the first in the country to earn certified carbon credits, which are sold to the World Bank’s Community Development Carbon Fund (CDCF). The revenue helps municipalities pay for investment in energy-efficient measures such as insulation and new windows, as well as the salaries of dedicated technicians to operate and maintain the new boilers. 

So far, the project has reduced green-house gas emissions by 89,500 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to taking about 19,000 modern vehicles off the roads for a year. 

At the World Bank last week, the team responsible for the project was given the GPOBA “Inn-OBA-tions” Social Inclusion/Green Award for its collaboration across the Bank Group and its perseverance in bringing this project to fruition.


Before and after: Efficient and intelligent gas boiler heaters installed in public buildings versus old, inefficient coal boiler heaters.

Photo: World Bank

Directly benefiting the poor and vulnerable

​The project targets the rural poor across Moldova. It helps about 40,000 people by dramatically improving heating in schools, kindergartens, hospitals, and cultural centers. The more reliable and efficient heating technology lengthens the periods of heating (from 90 to 190 days per year), raises room temperatures (from 13 to 18 degrees Celsius), and reduces smoke, compared with the outdated and inefficient coal boilers. 

Before, only some hospital rooms were heated and patients were crowded into a few rooms to save on energy. Now, even such simple things as affordable hot water during the colder months is helping to improve sanitation as more people wash their hands.

Across the countryside, the health of children, teachers, medical staff, patients, and boiler operators is improving and school retention rates are up. Warmer public buildings during the winter means schools can now teach longer days and students can focus better in class.

Before, I had to wear gloves in class during the winter because my hands were so cold and I could not write easily. Also, our lessons were cut from 45 to 20 minutes because of the cold,“ a Moldovan schoolgirl told Stela Drucioc, head of the Moldova Carbon Finance Unit.

“We had to change shifts frequently before to load coal into the boiler. Our lungs could only take 30 minutes of thick smoke at a time. Now I am a trained, and operate a programmable boiler in a smoke free and comfortable room. Life has changed”, said an operator.

In addition, the new boilers and heat distribution network have increased energy efficiency and reduced fuel consumption, which in turn is reducing energy demand and helping public entities save 30% to 40% on energy for heating. 

Finally, the project has helped position Moldova as it prepares to implement its national climate plan. Working with the World Bank, the Moldovan Carbon Finance Unit built the monitoring, reporting and verification capacity in the country to track emission reductions and raise climate change awareness both at the policy and institutional levels as well as on the ground. This gives it valuable experience that will be useful in advising the government as it moves ahead to address climate change on a national level.

This small scale project is an example of how sustainable development and climate finance together can help address energy, environmental and health challenges to benefit the rural poor.