Universities do not yet know the state’s strategy for energy, they are preparing cost-saving measures

Universities do not yet know the state’s strategy for energy, they are preparing cost-saving measures
Universities do not yet know the state’s strategy for energy, they are preparing cost-saving measures

Prague – University representatives do not yet know how the government will help them secure expensive energy in the coming winter. This follows from the answers of the spokespersons of the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague (VŠCHT) and the University of Economics (VŠE) to a question from ČTK. VŠCHT is preparing a crisis scenario with a reduction in laboratory teaching, possibly also mandatory work from home and a shift in the start of the summer semester. VŠE will probably introduce a surcharge for gas consumption for those staying in dormitories. The school uses it to heat most of its buildings, and due to its significant increase in price, it expects its costs to increase by tens of millions of crowns even if consumption is reduced.

The Chairman of the Council of Universities Milan Pospíšil already told ČTK last week that universities are considering switching to distance learning in the coming winter due to expensive energy. He pointed out that according to the current price development, their energy costs will rise from 1.5 billion crowns to approximately eight billion crowns next year compared to last year. The chairman of the Czech Rectors’ Conference, Martin Bareš, is therefore negotiating with government representatives about the possibilities of state aid.

At VŠCHT, the increase for energy for the second half of this year is about 30 million crowns, and for next year it could be another 100 million, school spokesman Michal Janovský calculated. “Next year we would go to the pulp and try to maintain the basic operation of the research teams and teaching in a subdued form,” he said. According to him, the school now has secured energy supplies until the end of the year. “For the period from January 2023 onwards, we do not yet have a tendered supplier,” he added.

According to him, the university would need to clarify the strategy of how the state wants to secure energy for universities. “If there was a considered state contractor for public entities, it could help,” he said. “We are ready for close cooperation with the state, just like during covid, we would like to offer expert help and maximum cooperation. But we openly say that without the help of the state, in the situation as it is, we cannot fulfill our obligations in the long term both in pedagogy and in research,” he pointed out . According to him, VŠCHT already cut a number of development and other beneficial activities in the second half of this year.

VŠE is also looking for savings, for which, according to spokesperson Martina Mlynářová, the impact of high gas prices for heating will be most noticeable. “As far as student dormitories are concerned, the full price of gas will likely be passed on to accommodation as a separate surcharge, as the planned standard increase in dorm fees barely covers the inflationary increases in other inputs,” she said. According to her, the change will then be announced to the students in advance so that they can eventually terminate the accommodation without penalties.

The contract with the supplier for VŠE ended this year, and since traders do not currently offer fixed prices, according to Mlynářová, the school will have to buy gas at spot prices, which are now significantly more expensive. “At the moment, we estimate the financial impact to be tens of millions of crowns even if consumption is reduced by a quarter,” she said. According to her, the increase in costs based on the prices of recent weeks could be five to tenfold. “VŠE will not be able to have a significant financial impact without an additional contribution from the Ministry of Education cover from your budget,” she added.

VŠE is preparing cost-saving measures such as lowering the heating temperature and changes in the organization of classes in order to limit the operation in the most energy-demanding spaces in the evenings and on weekends. “In the extreme case, online teaching may also be one of the options. But that will depend on further development and the agreed joint procedure of all faculties of VŠE. Since the situation also affects other universities, VŠE will try to proceed in accordance with decisions and opinions of the Czech Rectors’ Conference,” she concluded.

schools of energy management universities VŠE VŠCHT

The article is in Czech

Tags: Universities states strategy energy preparing costsaving measures

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