Vilnius will ban burning coal and peat since 2023

The Vilnius City Council has decided that Vilnius residents will no longer have to endure the smog caused by polluting fuel used for heating year after year. From June 2023, the burning of coal or peat briquettes in Vilnius will be banned.

“This decision is absolutely unavoidable, because coal and peat are several times more polluting than biomass, and if we compared this type of heating with central heating, the impact on the environment would not be a few times but thousands of times greater. This not only affects the health of the resident, but also causes irreversible damage in the context of climate change. I hope that Vilnius will be the first, but not the last, city to adopt such a practice. After all, we must be aware of ourselves, and not just blindly follow the directives of the European Union,” Valdas Benkunskas, Deputy Mayor of Vilnius, says.

Compared to wood, burning coal releases almost 700 times more sulphur dioxide, which contributes to respiratory diseases and causes acid rain. It also releases 10 times more metals, which cause neurological damage and developmental disorders, and 2 times more nitrogen dioxide, which is toxic to the airways and lungs. In addition, burning coal emits 1.3 times more smog-forming particulates and carbon dioxide, which cause the greenhouse effect.

The Council considered introducing the ban earlier, but decided to apply a longer transition period for the change of heating method and the preparation of the legal framework.

“The non-binding recommendations to change the heating method have been in force for more than a year now, but we can see that a large part of the residents has not followed the recommendations and has not adopted more environmentally friendly solutions in their households, so we have decided to give them time to prepare and have planned additional incentive measures on the part of the municipality,” V. Benkunskas clarified.

In some cases, the residents will not need to replace their heating boilers. In many cases, only the fuel itself – coal and peat briquettes – will have to be replaced with biomass.

For those who change the heating method to less polluting, the state offers various reimbursement mechanisms. The Environmental Projects Management Agency (EPMA) shall reimburse 50% of the costs for those who decide to replace their fossil-fuel boilers with renewable energy installations, and even up to 85% for the poor people. Meanwhile, people wishing to connect to district heating networks can get a 50% reimbursement by applying to the Environmental Projects Management Agency.

The Vilnius City Municipality, in turn, is considering covering a further 15% of the costs under each reimbursement programme. The reimbursement scheme could enter into force in 2022. If the Council approved such a procedure, the poor people who switch to heating solutions that use only renewable energy sources would incur no cost. For all other residents, the financing intensity when switching to renewable energy sources or connecting to district heating would increase to 65%.

The Vilnius City Municipality Administration will also replace heating stoves in social housing belonging to the city, which were previously heated by them, with installations using renewable energy sources.

Photos by Saulius Žiūra.

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