Pupils at school number 4 in Petrozavodsk. Photograph: Patrik Rastenberger

In the outskirts of Petrozavodsk, old and new alternate as we visit school number 4. Around the school, beautiful but worn Karelian wooden villas vie for space with modern luxury high rises and yellow brick facades. The tooth of time is not gentle at these latitudes.

“We have a total of 520 students in the school. Regrettably, students used to have to wear their overcoats in class to keep from shivering. Now it’s warm and comfortable here, which helps the students concentrate on the teaching,” says Sergey Pavlovich, the school director, as he leads us on a tour of the school.

The school is part of a larger project to up-grade the heating plants and improve the insulation of a total of 114 schools and day-care centres in Karelia. Three of these schools are in Petrozavodsk. At school number 4, they have put in new heat exchangers, rebuilt the local heating plant and insulated pipes and windows, all of which saves money and energy.
NEFCO has financed the project from its energy saving fund. The project was also supported by the city of Petrozavodsk. NEFCO has provided financing for the modernisation projects of a total of 23 buildings in Karelia.

“A single school project can have a very big impact on the environment. We have calculated that the project at school number 4 reduced carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 111 tonnes per year by cutting energy consumption,” says Alexey Smirnov, who works for the local energy efficiency centre in Petrozavodsk.

He adds that in many cases reductions will be larger if they invest in changing over from heavy fuel oil or coal to a bio fuel. Currently 12 school and day-care buildings have been selected for future projects in the Kondopoga district. Alexey Smirnov says that plans exist to modernise boilers in hospitals and schools in Sortavala, too.