Standards need to be put in order in the water supply sector

26 september 2018

"Today, we need to develop coordinated proposals for how to go about implementing the measures outlined in clauses 10.5 and 10.6 of the comprehensive action plan to improve the energy efficiency of the Russian economy," said Analytical Center expert Dmitry Khomchenko at the round table "Energy Efficiency in Water Supply".

According to the expert, the sections in question have to do with how to estimate water losses in water supply systems. One of the indicators is related to improving energy efficiency and energy conservation at housing utility companies. "When these issues were discussed during work conferences in the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Construction it emerged that there is some disagreement between the two ministries over whether or not the standards that are currently in use need improvements. The question is whether or not improvements need to be made to the methodology recommended by the Ministry of Construction for use by water utilities and regulators to determine specific water losses," Dmitry Khomchenko said.

"We don't think it would be wise to go ahead and implement these sections as they would have dangerous consequences for the industry," PABB Deputy Executive Director Alexander Epstein opined. According to him, at the moment there is no direct correlation between electricity consumption and electricity costs. However, the prices of electricity are completely unpredictable in terms of how they constantly keep going up. "So the water utility companies that are being pro-active in implementing energy efficiency measures will often then get targets for further reduction in energy consumption and find themselves unable to implement them. In terms of technology that is needed, these targets are quite expensive to achieve," the specialist explained.

As far as tracking water losses is concerned, the targets included in the plan are simply unrealistic, Mr. Epstein believes. "The bulk of the losses comes from the calculation method, moreover, the meters available in different regions vary significantly. Big cities tend to have very good meters wile small cities tend to have sub-par meters so water supply data differ greatly," the expert said. The existing standards exacerbate the situation further: in some places, they are too high while in others, they are too low. To add insult to injury there are also leaks and theft, the specialist noted.

Anton Chertov, Head of the Department for Regulatory Risks, Analysis and Court Practice Research at MC Rosvodokanal LLC, believes the main cause of water losses is unaccounted consumption which in practice accounts for up to 50% of estimated losses.  "This happens because there are no effective laws or incentives for the public. Incentives to install water meters are insignificant," the specialist believes. Mr. Chertov focused his attention on the poor state of the water supply systems and the rather large number of water supply systems that don't even have legal owners or operators.

Participants in the discussion agreed that the water supply sector needs to retrofit its energy intensive equipment and pipeline networks. Incentives also need to be put in place: without adopting the same standards across the country and creating viable incentives for people to buy and install water meters, all energy efficiency measures are bound to fail miserably, the specialists are convinced.