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Is connecting households to district heating for free sustainable?

February 3, 2020 | Comments: 0Author:

Photo: Beogradske elektrane (BGEN)
Is connecting households to district heating for free sustainable?

The City of Šabac decided that connecting households to the district heating system would be free, while the City of Valjevo halved the charge. Representatives of the local authorities said they intend to help lower air pollution but that they want heating prices to decrease.

Individual furnaces are labeled as one of the major causes of air pollution, which has been brought into the main public spotlight this year in the region and in Serbia. Stoves and boilers pollute the air because of the use of fossil fuels but also waste – oils and rubber, so some local authorities decided to make connecting to district heating easier.

Opinions are split on whether it is realistic in an economic sense not to charge connecting to the network

While noone disputes that the measure can help in the struggle against pollution, opinions are split on whether it is realistic in an economic sense not to charge connecting to the network.

The price of linking to the heat pipeline was slashed 50%

Director of public enterprise Toplana Valjevo Zoran Stepanović said the connection for a structure of one hundred square meters now costs RSD 40,000, which is EUR 340, instead of RSD 80,000, RTS reported.

Local municipal utility Gradska toplana Užice cut the connection tariff 50% already in 2018.

Deputy director Branko Filipović stated funds need to be secured through the city and state governments to stimulate people to be linked to the heating plant.

The facility has reserve capacity and the network is widespread, so it is possible to add consumers, he said.

If the household is within 50 meters from the pipeline in Šabac, it costs nothing to connect

The City Council of Šabac, which is in the country’s west just like the other two towns, decided linking households within 50 meters from the pipeline is becoming free. Rather, heating plant Toplana Šabac is absorbing the expenses.

The decision makers there claimed the motive is to lower heating prices, redistribute costs and cut pollution. All three systems are run by their municipal authorities.

Jerotić (Šabac): Connection should be free of charge

Slobodan Jerotić, director of Toplana Šabac, told Balkan Green Energy News attaching to district heating is a way to decrease pollution. In his words, it means shutting down individual furnaces which burn coal and heating oil but that waste oils from car mechanics’ workshops are also utilized, and that there is very inefficient use of wood.

Individual furnaces burn coal, heating oil and even waste oils from car mechanics’ workshops while wood is used very inefficiently

Of course, this applies for heating plants on natural gas or renewable sources, Jerotić stressed. In the case of obsolete systems on coal or fuel oil, the effect isn’t relevant, he asserted.

Šabac abolished the charge as it wasn’t fair for households to pay the same service two times, Jerotić stated. Until now, they were first charged for connecting to district heating and then the link became the plant’s property, so later they were covering the amortization on their own investment in the form of the fixed share of the bill, he explained.

It is in Toplana’s interest to add as many consumers as possible

Of note, the city has started investing in energy efficiency several years ago in the form of buildings refurbishment. It lowered the use of energy, so it is in Toplana’s interest to add as many consumers as possible.

The firm doesn’t give away anything with free connections, Jerotić underscored and pointed to the revenue from the fixed item in the bill.

“Furthermore, boosting energy supply means the increase in capacity utilization and we make money on the sale of heating energy,” he stated.

Stojanović (Toplane Srbije): Attaching without charge harms heating plants

Dejan Stojanović, chairman of the Serbian District Heating Association, told Balkan Green Energy News that it isn’t realistic for connecting consumers to district heating to be complimentary and claimed it harms the plants economically. Still, he suggested exploring the possibility to make it more affordable and introducing the option to pay in installments on a longer run, up to twenty years.

Free connection will inflict financial losses on heating plants

Free connection will inflict financial losses on heating plants as someone will have to pay the price eventually, Stojanović underscored and urged for a sustainable solution. However, he acknowledged a joint furnace is better for consumers as is phasing out the use of rubber and other waste.

Citizens would benefit if they could pay for the connection for up to twenty years

The association will try and develop a general method for cost calculation for all district heating plants in Serbia, as right now only Beogradske toplane, Belgrade’s municipal utility, has a comprehensive approach, he said.

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