Solution 14:59 26 Sep 2023

“Gas stations may not have fuel for generators, but the sun still rises every day”: eight Volyn administrative service centers lead Ukraine in independence from power outages

Thanks to the EGAP Program's implementation of the "Energy Independent Centers for the Provision of Administrative Services" project, several small communities in Volyn will be better prepared for the upcoming autumn and winter season, which often brings threats to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

What is the problem?

During the last autumn and winter seasons, the enemy damaged to approximately 50% of Ukrainian power generation and over 40% of high-voltage networks. As a result, Ukrainian citizens faced extended blackouts and disruptions in accessing public services.

Vadym Skibitsky, the representative of Ukraine's Ministry of Defense Main Intelligence Directorate, has issued a warning stating that the Russians have plans to launch another attack on Ukraine's energy system during the upcoming autumn and winter seasons.

What is the solution?

Communities are working to become more self-sufficient in terms of energy. However, in times of war, it is challenging to do so on their own. Therefore, international partners are stepping in to help. One such project is the "Energy Independent Centers for the Provision of Administrative Services," part of the Swiss-Ukrainian EGAP Program.

Thanks to this project, eight Centers for Administrative Services in the Volyn region now have solar power plants installed. This choice will allow the centers to operate independently from the state of Ukraine's energy system. Furthermore, it is more environmentally friendly.

Енергонезалежні ЦНАПи

Solar panels are on the roof of the Lutsk City Council's Center for the Provision of Administrative Services, as shown in a photo on their official website, www.lutskrada.gov.ua.

How does the EGAP Program work?

The Swiss government is funding the program "Electronic Governance for Government Accountability and Community Participation" (EGAP), which is a registered international technical assistance project for Ukraine. The program has been running in Ukraine since 2015 in collaboration with the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine and the Innovabridge Foundation.

Енергонезалежні ЦНАПи

Screenshot from the official website of the EGAP Program egap.in.ua

The program operates on multiple levels. At the national level, it includes popular services like "Diia" [a mobile app, a web portal and a brand of e-governance in Ukraine – ed.] and "Digital Education," as well as "Digital Community," "YeMaliatko" [a set of registry services for newborns – ed.], the eDEM platform [a platform for enhancing communication between community members and local authorities in addressing socially significant matters – ed.], and more.

The EGAP Program operates in six regions of Ukraine: Vinnytsia, Volyn, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Odesa, and Chernihiv.

Сергій Гунько

Serhii Hunko, the coordinator for the regional component of the Swiss-Ukrainian EGAP Program / Photo taken from the website oldegap.eef.org.ua

"In these six regions, we currently have a total of 44 pilot communities that were selected through a competitive process. These communities were chosen through three separate open competitions starting in 2019," Serhii Hunko, the coordinator of the regional component for the Swiss-Ukrainian EGAP Program and the Eastern Europe Foundation, explained. "Our focus at the regional level is primarily on training and implementing system solutions. As for implementing specific projects, we only work with our selected pilot communities."

Енергонезалежні ЦНАПи

Screenshot from the official website of the EGAP Program /egap.in.ua

In the Volyn region, the EGAP Program has eight pilot communities: Vyshnivsk, Volodymyrivsk, Zymnivsk, Lutsk, Liubeshivsk, Novovolynsk, Smidynsk, and Shatsk.

Answering the call of time

Uncovering the origins of the "Energy Independent Centers for the Provision of Administrative Services" project

The "Energy Independent Centers for Administrative Services" project was created in response to the Russian shelling of the energy infrastructure to ensure the continuous operation of administrative services centers. In certain regions, power outages could last for multiple days.

Енергонезалежні ЦНАПи

The screenshot is from the official Facebook page of the EGAP Program.

Serhii Hunko recalls: "As we considered a solution for this issue in rural areas, where most of our 44 pilot communities are located, we realized they are mostly small communities. The entire state quickly turned to us to purchase generators, which meant constantly buying large amounts of fuel. Therefore, we decided to take a different approach and explore renewable electricity sources. Our project began in Volyn, specifically in the administrative services centers of our pilot communities in Lutsk and Novovolynsk."

Енергонезалежні ЦНАПи

Встановлення сонячних панелей у Нововолинську/ Фото з сайту Нововолинської міської ради nov-rada.gov.ua

Serhii explains that the EGAP program cannot extend project participation to other communities, aside from the 44 chosen initially pilot communities, as it is not included in the program's procedures. At present, solar panels have been successfully installed in all eight pilot communities in Volyn, marking the successful implementation of the project in this area.

Why did they choose to begin in Volyn? Serhii Hunko says, "We have formed strong bonds with the Lutsk Centers for the Provision of Administrative Services. Their team has provided us with valuable assistance in working with other Centers in the pilot communities. In addition, Lutsk has a unique story as certain infrastructure was destroyed, and there were frequent power outages at that particular Center."

Four essential tasks of solar panels for administrative service Centers

"Gas stations may not have fuel for generators, but the sun still rises every day," Serhii Hunko is advocating for the use of solar panels, citing the challenging year of 2022 as evidence. "Even if it is such a weak month from the point of view of insolation [irradiation of surfaces with sunlight – ed.] as November and December, electricity production is still occurring. This means that electricity will always be available in the administrative services centers, regardless of shelling or any potential disruptions."

The project has four goals:

  1. Ensuring continuous provision of services in communities despite the possibility of terrorist attacks.
  2. Providing an opportunity for people always to stay connected.
  3. Unloading of the energy system of Ukraine.
  4. Cutting costs on electricity bills.

Regarding the second point, according to Viktoriia Levchuk, the deputy head of the Volyn Regional Military Administration, the Centers for the Provision of Administrative Services essentially act as mini-points of invincibility.

First of all, it's important to note that every administrative center has access to the Internet network. Additionally, the installed systems require inverters to convert energy into either 220 or 380 volts, as well as rechargeable batteries. These batteries allow for the accumulation of electricity reserves necessary for work during darkness or insufficient sunlight.

Hence, individuals visiting administrative services centers have the convenience of charging their devices on the spot and utilizing them. Each of the eight centers features a designated seating space for this purpose.

During the summer, when there is plenty of sunshine, most Volyn Centers for the Provision of Administrative Services do not incur any electricity costs. According to Serhii Hunko, they rely entirely on solar energy to meet their needs. As for the winter months, the outcome remains to be seen, and predictions vary. It is likely that during this time, there will be a significant decrease in the use of electronic devices such as computers and the charging of gadgets due to limited resources.

Related solution

How does the modern Center for the Provision of Administrative Services work?

"In collaboration with our international partner, we successfully executed yet another joint project: establishing the "Digital Volyn" project office. We had a proposal to incorporate solar panels into this office, albeit on a smaller scale. We chose administrative services centers for their significance at the forefront of our organization, where people can easily access our services. This was particularly crucial when rocket attacks heavily impacted the energy industry," Viktoriia Levchuk, the deputy head of the Volyn Regional Military Administration, says. "As we enter the autumn and winter months, we hope this decision will support our communities."

Вікторія Левчук і Сергій Гунько

Viktoriia Levchuk, Deputy Head of the Volyn Regional State Administration, and Serhii Hunko, Coordinator of the regional segment of the Swiss-Ukrainian EGAP Program, in a photo from the voladm.gov.ua website.

In the contemporary Center for the Provision of Administrative Services, there should be a wide range of over one hundred available services, including but not limited to the payment of administrative fees, utility bills, online service guidance, and support for business-related services like Diia.Business.

For example, the Center for the Provision of Administrative Services in the Smidynsk community, which was opened in the winter of last year also with the methodical support of the Swiss-Ukrainian EGAP Program:

  • provides 210 types of administrative services;
  • is adapted for persons with disabilities and visitors with children;
  • has a self-service area and a business advisory point.
Енергонезалежні ЦНАПи

Illustration from the official Facebook page of the EGAP Program

Even amidst a full-scale invasion, every single Center for the Provision of Administrative Services in Volyn continued to operate and offer consultations. The centers stepped in to assist internally displaced persons, coordinating their placement and support, according to Viktoriia Levchuk. Levchuk praises the unity and expertise of the Centers for the Provision of Administrative Services employees, which has kept the Volyn region at the forefront regarding the efficiency and ease of providing administrative services.

Where else is this solution implemented?

The administrative services centers in the Dnipropetrovsk region have been outfitted with solar panels in the pilot communities. Currently, efforts are underway in Odesa, Chernihiv, and Vinnytsia.

Енергонезалежні ЦНАПи

Installation of solar panels in Novovolynsk/ Photo from the website of the Novovolynsk City Council nov-rada.gov.ua

"These projects pose technological challenges, as they require a thorough analysis of the building's electrical network and planning of cuts to be made. We have carefully surveyed all the roofs to determine the feasibility of panel installation. In other words, it's not just a matter of simply attaching the panels to the roof," Serhii Hunko says with a smile. "These projects aren't rapid to implement, but we're progressing well."

What contributes to the effective implementation of the solution?

"Communities in the Volyn region are very active"

Viktoriia Levchuk firmly believes collaboration and communication with donors are crucial to achieving a high-quality result.

Заступниця голови Волинської ОВА Вікторія Левчук

This is a photo of Viktoriia Levchuk, the Deputy Head of the Volyn Regional Military Administration, from her archive.

"In my opinion, it is crucial for any politician or government official handling regional policies, including digitalization, to focus on creating a united community of individuals who share similar values. They should actively search for and include these individuals in the region's progress. This group should also consist of international partners, with whom collaborative projects can be carried out."

The Volyn communities are very active in building the "Digital Volyn" brand; Viktoriia Levchuk says:
"I am proud of the acquaintance and the opportunity to work with our communities. We have a joint group where we discuss various projects. We perceive each of our communities as a member of the team. We are all a team and try to build such relationships. Each community is dedicated to achieving the successful completion of our various projects."

For instance, last year, when the EGAP Program held a competition to choose five additional pilot communities, they received approximately 20 applications. However, when the "Digital Volyn" project office, which offers various educational initiatives, began functioning, the number of applications increased significantly. As a result, instead of eight communities, sixteen were selected.

Viktoriia Levchuk explains,"We had a difficult time choosing because the people are extremely proactive and eager to develop. In the Volyn region, there is a strong enthusiasm for new projects, digitalization, and innovations, and people have a very positive attitude towards them."

According to the deputy head of the Volyn Regional Military Administration, there is a notable example in which the regional military administration supplied one computer to the Poromiv community for their use. It was initially intended for the local self-government body's work. However, the community had a different idea and chose to donate the computer to the remote library in the village of Morozovychi. They independently established internet access there, providing a resource for children, senior citizens, and other community members. This transformed the library into a local mini-hub for the community.


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