Besides being the largest company in Western Ukraine engaged in the development and implementation of renewable energy sources, Eco-Optima also built the first wind farm in the region. Additionally, it is also the first privately owned company to have received a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) under the Ukraine Sustainable Energy Lending Facility III, a €250 million framework to support renewable energy in the country. With its projects in wind, solar, hydropower and now also biomass, Eco-Optima is uniquely positioned to support the new government’s push for more alternative sources within the national energy mix. The company also emphasizes corporate responsibility and works towards the development of the local communities where its facilities are located, chiefly in the Lviv region, which has historically always been more attuned to Europe than other parts of the country.
Eco-Optima began as a wind power company and today you are a leading producer of renewable energy in the country. What are the milestones that positioned you as a leader?
Some of our success can be attributed to our work with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). We started our projects with them in 2010 under a program called USELF, which helped us prepare the projects. We really appreciate the help we received from them and the transfer of know-how. We began with a wind project and we also did four photovoltaic projects. Now we are also working with other partners, such as the Danish fund IFU or NEFCO, the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation.
Growth in renewables has been phenomenal. What political, economic or other factors have made this happen?
Wind power capacity is increasing every year, and the technology is moving very fast, which makes it cheaper to build the equipment from year to year. At the political level, the country’s new government is pushing for a greater percentage of renewables within the national energy mix. We have very good green tariffs and really good legislation to implement these projects. And now we have a lot of FDI coming in, so the market is really growing.
Is there any regulation that makes Ukraine more attractive than other destinations?
Without taking into account the country risk and expensive connections, we still have good opportunities here for growth. And the price of renting the land is very cheap.
What makes the region of Lviv so important for Ukraine?
There are historical reasons. Its western location made it part of many different nations for centuries, and it was only part of the Soviet empire for 40 years, so this is the most European and least Russian region in Ukraine. We feel European despite not being formally part of the EU, and all changes in Ukraine often originate here, so the region plays a very important role in culture and society.
US investors see the potential in Ukraine, but they may be held back by negative information in the media. Why should they invest in Lviv?
Our message is: don’t be afraid, come and see. We are part of Europe, and ultimately business relations are between people.
The government’s target is to make renewable energy 11% of the energy mix by 2020. How is ECO-OPTIMA playing a role in this target?
Mostly not just through the construction of new projects but also in the negotiation of new laws. We are very active in the market, working with local people to explain why it is important to develop renewables.
What percentage of investment is coming from Ukraine and how much is coming from abroad?
It’s around 50-50 right now. And the foreign investors are coming mostly from Europe.