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New EBRD-financed biogas plant in Belarus to turn sludge into energy

The first biogas plant under a framework agreement between the government of Belarus and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in the municipal and environmental infrastructure sector has started operation in Baranovichi, a city in western Belarus with a population of more than 170 000. The biogas power plant is expected to achieve significant energy and cost savings, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the volume of sludge, and improve the quality of services.

Energy and cost savings to be achieved at the newly opened state-of-the-art sewage sludge digestion facility in Baranovichi, Belarus (photo courtesy EBRD).

The recently held opening ceremony was attended by First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Anatoliy Kalinin, Minister of Housing and Communal Services of Belarus, Alexander Terekhov, Governor of the Brest Region, Anatoliy Lis, and Mayor of Baranovichi, Yuriy Gromakovskiy, On behalf of the international community, Sweden’s Ambassador to Belarus, Christina Johannesson, attended the event, as did EBRD Senior Banker Renata Iksar.

The construction of the sludge digester in Baranovichi is a good example of international cooperation in Belarus. It is part of a wider programme for the upgrading of wastewater services in five Belarusian cities in which Sweden is actively participating. The goal of this programme is to reduce emissions to the Baltic Sea and to support the Belarusian cities to comply with HELCOM (The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – Helsinki Commission) requirements. Following the successful completion of the first project in Baranovichi we are now looking forward to the finalisation of our projects in Slonim, Vitebsk, Brest and Grodno, Ambassador Johannesson said.

The EBRD provided an EUR 2.9 million sovereign loan for the construction of the facility, which complies with EU regulations and will generate 4.38 GWh of electricity and 3,880 Gcal of heat per year from biogas extracted from wastewater sludge. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) complemented the investment with an additional EUR 1.4 million grant for capital expenditure and EUR 0.8 million for project implementation consultancy work.

The biogas power plant is expected to achieve significant energy and cost savings, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the volume of sludge, and improve the quality of services. As the operator of the facility, Baranovichi Water and Wastewater Company has raised its capacity in corporate development planning, managing environmental and social issues and interacting with stakeholders as a result of the project, combining local and international expertise.

The Baranovichi project has become a trailblazer in the practical implementation of municipal investments, in compliance with our high environmental and social standards, and is paving the way for further municipal engagements in Belarus, said Alexander Pivovarsky, EBRD Head of Belarus.

Additional projects to come

In total, the EBRD, Sida and the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) are providing EUR 27.2 million to three municipalities: Baranovichi, Vitebsk and Slonim, for the improvement of environmental infrastructure and wastewater services.

The NDEP framework promotes cooperation between partner governments, the European Commission, donors and international financial institutions (IFIs) to enable the creation of financing structures that combine loans, grants and local budget funding which can be used for priority environmental investments.

According to the EBRD, its engagement with the government of Belarus is setting an example for better environmental management at the municipal level and raising quality standards to meet local and EU regulations. To date, the EBRD has invested EUR 1.96 billion in 95 projects across Belarus. The promotion of renewables in Belarus is important for improving the country’s energy security.

The EBRD focuses strongly on investments that bring environmental benefits and implement the Bank’s Green Economy Transition approach, which seeks to increase its overall volume of green financing to 40 percent of the EBRD’s annual business investment by 2020.

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