Known as the ‘bread-basket of Europe’, Ukraine has long been famed for its plentiful agricultural production. Agricultural and food products are the country’s biggest exports, which doesn’t come as a surprise when 70% of the country, 41.5 million hectares, is covered by agricultural land. Being the world’s foremost exporter of sunflower oil, and the sixth biggest exporter of wheat, the agri-food industry is a life-force for the Ukrainian economy.
But profitability is low and a lack of adequate financing means that businesses still rely on outdated equipment that wastes energy.
In 2011, UNIDO began a project to improve energy efficiency and promote renewable energy in the agro-food sector. With funding from the Global Environment Facility (the GEF) totaling $5,768,400, UNIDO has launched a total of 16 pilot projects. They demonstrate how new technology can reduce reliance on expensive fossil fuels, enabling businesses to increase profits while lessening the impact on the environment.
Ukraine is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, but the cost, both environmentally and financially is high. Manuel Mattiat of UNIDO’s Department of Energy explains, “The biggest benefit of these new low-carbon technologies is simply that it is much cheaper to use them, so you can increase your production.”
Ukraine’s vast fields have a huge capacity for extensive biomass usage. Vladyslava Rutytska, Vice President of the SigmaBleyzer Investment Fund, one of UNIDO’s implementing partners, is calling for an increase in the use of biomass for the production of alternative energy. She explained, “The numbers we calculated could be up to 14 or 15 % of the total energy production in Ukraine. But right now we have only 7%.” She said there is a need and a potential for a shift towards more intelligent fuels.