Universities try hard to save energy resources in Latvia

Take note – story published 1 year ago

As the heating season approached with huge heating bills, Latvian universities decided that students would go at least partially remote to save on energy expenses. At the moment, the situation is not as bad as it seemed, Latvian Radio reported on December 30.

In September, the University of Latvia's rector Indriķis Muižnieks assumed that in the worst-case scenario, studies would stay remote until March. The forecasts have not come true. After the winter holidays, students will take the exams in person, and the second semester of the studies will take at least partly onsite.

There are 58 locations on the University of Latvia's address list, while studies took place in 12 buildings. The University of Latvia's Prorector Valdis Segliņš said that in January the university would implement the plan "Warm buildings" – i.e., three buildings would be heated where students would come onsite. This includes both buildings in the Torņakalns campus, as well as the Faculty of Economics, Management and Business on Aspazijas Boulevard. The main building is also heated as a historic monument – an organ – is located inside. 

“We have allowed up to 50% of classes to be remote and it will also be the case in February. As many direct contact hours as possible – this is important for young people after all these Covid years,” Segliņš said.

The energy crisis of higher education has been addressed not only by careful planning of lesson schedules but also by government support. On December 6, it gave the green light to a proposal by the Ministry of Education and Science to compensate for half of the increase in energy prices in state-founded universities, scientific institutes, and state capital companies in sport and education. More than €3 million of contingency budget was earmarked for this purpose. 

A hybrid model has also been created during the coldest winter months at the Rīga Technical University (RTU), scheduling lectures both on-site and remotely, but the exam session in January and practice sessions and only on-site.

“Thanks to state aid, universities will receive compensation that allows this training model to be provided until the beginning of March. Yes, the Cabinet decided to grant aid to universities, which compensates for part of the costly tariff, which is different for each university, looking at consumption and increased prices. There are different universities, different numbers of students, and different needs. The support will certainly help the RTU overcome this difficult time,” said RTU administrative department director Juris Iļjins.

At the relatively small University of Liepaja, where the learning is currently concentrated in two buildings, it has not occurred to stop onsite studies at any time. The development director Uldis Zupa pointed out that although November was colder than last year, the university managed to use thermal energy even less than in the same month a year ago, and in December it looks like there will be savings.

Unfortunately, for the large, energy-intensive universities, even drastic savings measures cover only partly the share of the increase they have to cope with. Next year's forecasts are uncertain. The leadership of these universities already concludes that this winter's expenses could put a dent in the budget for several more years.


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