The first biogas plant under a framework agreement between the government of Belarus and the 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 people.

The EBRD provided a €2.9 million sovereign loan for the construction of the facility, which complies with EU regulations and will generate 4,380 MWh 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 €1.4 million grant for capital expenditure and €0.8 million for project implementation consultancy work.

The biogas power plant is expected to achieve significant energy and cost savings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the volume of sludge, and improve the quality of services. The Baranovichi Water and Wastewater Company as operator of the facility 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 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.

Ambassador Johannesson said: “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* 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.”

EBRD Head of Belarus, Alexander Pivovarsky, added: “The Baranovichi project has become a trailblazer in 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.”

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

The engagement between the EBRD and 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 €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 per cent of the EBRD’s annual business investment by 2020.

* The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, or Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), is an international governing body for the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area.