LVIV MUNICIPAL ELECTRIC FACILITIES (MEF)
An enterprise for operating the municipal power plant and electric grid was founded in 1900. The structure and responsibilities of the company have been changing over the years as a result of political and technological changes. Today, the operation of the city electric grids is provided by a unit in the structure of the Lvivoblenergo company. At different times, the enterprise was located on Vynnychenka, Vitovskoho and Buyka streets.
The foundation of Lviv’s MEF (Municipal Electric Facilities, pol. Miejskie Zakłady Elektryczne) dates back to 1900, when DC (direct current) cable lines were laid from the power station on Sakharova (then Wulecka) street to the distribution point in the basement of the City Theater (now the Lviv National Solomiya Krushelnytska Opera and Ballet Theater). Buildings in the city center started to be connected to the distribution point. In 1901, the Electric Grid Department was created in the MEF, placed in the former building of the city fire brigade on Vynnychenka (then Czarneckiego) street 5; now there is an underground crossing in its place, at the corner of Lychakivska and Vynnychenka streets.
In the same year 1901, electricity was supplied to the Lviv Polytechnic, as it was to the city hospital, the Cathedral, the police, and other places in the following years. Consequently, the DC power plant, which was built primarily for the needs of the electric tram, was now short of power.
In November 1906, it was decided to build a new AC power plant in the suburban district of Persenkivka (now Kozelnytska street). At the same time a mass electrification of Lviv was planned. From Persenkivka electric power was to be supplied with a voltage of 5000 V to three central distribution points (CDP), to which 72 transformer substations (TS) were connected. From these, electricity was supplied to consumers. For the whole grid, it was planned to lay 170 kilometers of AC lines with a voltage of 5000 V and 110 V.
The central distribution points were located as follows: in the basement of the Stanisław Konarski school (now school number 55) at the corner of present-day Stepana Bandery and Yuriya Fedkovycha streets (CDP "A"), in the basement of the present-day Academy of Printing on Pidvalna street (CDP "B"), in the territory of the DC power plant on present-day Sakharova street (CDP "C"). The new power plant and the AC power system were put into operation on 18 February 1909.
During the six months before, there was a real "armageddon" in the MEF office, lots of grumble and complaints. The city did not connect new electricity consumers to the grid. Customers would not even hear that electricity was a specific product and that it could not be stored, all that was produced was to be consumed immediately. That is, simultaneously with putting a new power plant into operation it was necessary to have new consumers ready to be connected. Therefore, the MEF held back their electrification, planning to connect them to the AC power plant.
The competition for laying cables was won by Zygmunt Rodakowski’s company from Lviv, known to the MEF management as the supplier of fuel oil for the DC power plant. The company specialized in the construction of water pipelines and, therefore, involved in the installation electrical works the Siemens&Halske, a Viennese company. Under the terms of the contract, before the installation of cable lines, this Viennese company submitted a three-year guarantee deposit in the bank as a pledge for the quality performance of works. The customer could pay for emergency repairs from this amount. If no accident occurred, the contractor could withdraw his deposit from the bank along with interest for three years. In the Lviv Region State Archive, there is a letter from Józef Tomicki, director of the MEF, who disagreed with the withdrawal of the Siemens&Halske's guarantee deposit as the cable had broken down. Although the company repaired it independently, without bringing to the forced withdrawal of funds, the director of the MEF suggested that the calculation of a three-year guarantee period be started from the repair date.
With the introduction of a new power plant, the MEF started installing street electric lighting. Prior to that, electric lighting was used mainly in apartments, being extremely rare on the streets. The owners of houses who had a lamp installed in front of the entrance or illuminated shop windows (and, at the same time, a part of pavement) were sold electricity at a 5 per cent discount. The new electric street lighting was an expensive project, so in the early years, only 80 poles with arc lamps were installed, from the theater along present-day Svobody boulevard to the Soborna square.
At that time, the capacity of incandescent lamps did not exceed 100 W, arc lamps, however, had a capacity of 2500 W, which provided a good lighting of pavements. Their coal electrodes (pressed coal 25x6x2 cm) burned out every four days and were to be replaced. In the MEF, a permanent brigade of 5 employees was organized for the maintenance of street lighting. Nevertheless, the expenses proved worthwhile. As Feldstein, an adviser of the Municipal Electricity Commission, wrote in his 1911 report, "the new lighting gives Lviv an appearance of a big city, increases security in the evening and emphasizes the charm of the best streets."
In addition to paying for electricity consumed, customers paid for the lease of a meter, which was the exclusive property of the MEF. As another income item for the MEF, the Lviv Magistrate offered to the electric company a 20-thousand-crown loan for the purchase of electric motors, "to lease them to the city entrepreneurs, and those who so desire will always be there, since motors make workers free. This will improve the financial situation of the MEF: when someone has a cow, he must care about her nutrition, so that the cow can be milked well."
Until the First World War, there were a DC 220 V grid and an AC 5000 V / 110 V grid in the city at the same time. The DC grid was eliminated in 1916, and all its customers were connected to the AC grid.
The scale of the grids and the number of consumers grew from year to year. In 1930, suburban villages were united to Lviv, the area of the city thus doubled, reaching now 66.9 sq km. The capacity of the Lviv power plant was increased up to 26 MW. The city built three new central 5 kV distribution points: at Pidzamche, near the building of the present-day Consulate General of the Republic of Poland (Ivana Franka street 108) and in the yard of the St. Anne school at the corner of Horodotska and Leontovycha streets (now the Legal High School). The latter’s building and equipment, mounted by the Siemens&Halske, has been completely preserved to this day.
In the MEF themselves, problems accumulated over the years concerning the lack of production facilities. The tram with its depots on Wulecka (now Sakharova) street and Gabrielivka (Mykolaychuka street) was a separate subdivision of the MEF owning large land plots. The power plant at Persenkivka had an area large enough to ensure all technological processes. Worst of all was, however, the situation of the Electric Grids Department; though it had a separate building on Vynnychenka (then Czarneckiego) street 5, but it was tiny, with a small courtyard squeezed between the building and the defensive wall of the Bernardine church. In addition, municipal transport workers insisted on demolishing this house to rationalize the intersection of Vynnychenka and Lychakivska streets. The city conservator of historical monuments joined, suggesting that the old walls adjoining Bernardine monastery’s and shielded by the MEF building should be opened for viewing.
Marian Dziewoński, director of the MEF, and his successor, Stanisław Kozłowski, began to search for a plot for the construction of a new building. At first, an area on Zelena street 12 was considered; however, it appeared to be too small. Later, a research institute of Lviv scientist Rudolf Weigl, who invented the typhoid fever vaccine, was built there. Eventually the MEF management decided in favour of a site on Pełczyńska (now Vitovskoho) street, adjoining the tram depot on Wulecka (Sakharova) street. Long negotiations of the city’s president (who had even to resort to threats) with the command of an infantry regiment belonging to the army corps No. 6, which owned warehouses and barracks in this area, succeeded. In March 1937 a new building of the MEF was consecrated (more about the building). Its opening was combined with the congress of the Union of Electric Enterprises of Poland, in which took part not only managers of municipal electric grids of Poland, but also their colleagues from Bucharest and Prague. The old MEF administrative building on Sakharova street 1 was given to the electric tram, which in 1934 was detached from the MEF as a separate enterprise called the Municipal Electric Tracks.
The MEF had their own rules of service in force. Entering upon their duties, the employees took an oath to the MEF director. During their working hours, all employees had to wear a buttoned up uniform with official insignia; if wearing an overcoat, it was to be buttoned up too. The uniform was provided free of charge. When meeting a manager, a uniformed worker had to salute him in a military manner. Managers had "to treat their subordinates thoughtfully, not to take gifts from them, not to play cards with them, and also to borrow them money."
The MEF established a pension fund for the employees. In addition to their membership fees, the MEF contributed to the fund a sum equal to the total pension contributions of all employees. The pension, 70% of the last salary, began to be paid when the employee reached 65 years of age. The widow received 75% of her husband's pension. In the case of minors, the total pension of the widow and orphans was equal to the last salary of the deceased.
In 1935, the MEF opened their own shop on Akademicka street 24 to sell and lease electrical household goods. Suddenly there were troubles, as the tax inspectorate demanded to pay a license for the sale of these goods. The claim was accompanied by an act recording facts of sale, as well as renting a radio receiver "Philips", an electric iron, an electric oven, etc. However, the MEF director proved in the court that the energy produced by their power plant cannot be used without electrical goods, which transform it into heat, light, music, etc. (this was the electrical system’s specific nature, they explained). In addition, he presented an extract from the account book, where the price of electrical goods in the MEF shop was evaluated in such a way that the profit from the sale of electrical goods was less than the cost of maintaining the shop.
On 22 September 1939, five days after the transition of Western Ukrainian lands under the control of the USSR, a Red Army officer shot the MEF director Stanisław Kozłowski (1888-1939), supposedly for sabotage. The director of the Municipal Electric Grids was appointed a Lysenko who had come from the USSR (his name is unknown).
When Lviv was occupied by the Nazi, services were created by agreement with the German authorities which provided functioning of the city’s economy and, in particular, engineering communications. The German military command relied more on the loyalty of Ukrainians. Therefore, they were appointed to senior positions in the city administration. Quite often, this led to local conflicts, since most of the staff were Poles.
Yuriy Poliansky was elected the head of the administration. Tymofiy Koba, a Ukrainian, was appointed to the position of the Municipal Electric Grids director. In November 1941, the German authorities, seeing the plans of the Ukrainian National Administration in Lviv to establish an independent Ukrainian state, suppressed it. Almost all managers of communal enterprises were arrested. Tymofiy Koba was first taken to the German prison on present-day Stepana Bandery street, then he was transferred to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, and thence to Dachau. In 1945, the American army captured the Dachau camp, and Tymofiy Koba emigrated to England and later to Canada, where he worked at a power company. Only in 1993, after the proclamation of Ukraine's independence, Tymofiy Koba visited his motherland and told about the alarming circumstances of his short administering the municipal electric grids in Lviv during the war.
In 1942, all Lviv electrical facilities (power plants, municipal and regional electric grids) were subordinated to the state-owned company Ost-Energie A.G. with the main base in Krakow. The Ost-Energie A.G. opened its branch in Lviv.
In the first post-war years, the Lviv power plant was detached from the MEF into a separate enterprise. The Municipal Electric Facilities themselves no longer had the status of a separate structure. They were now part of the Electric Grids Department of the Lviv Power Complex. In 1960, the enterprise of the Lviv Municipal Electric Grids (LMEG) was restored. In the postwar period, Taras Krukenytsky managed the Lviv Municipal Electric Grids for the longest time (from 1979 till 2002). The largest increase in the volume of servicing of the LMEG occurred in the 1980s, when an intensive construction of residential areas at Sykhiv, Riasne, Zboyishcha, as well as in the areas of Naukova, Shchurata, Pasichna and some other streets was carried out. Since 2000, the LMEG has been a structural unit of the PJSC Lvivoblenergo. Under Taras Krukenytsky’s management (LMEG chief engineer was Ihor Kalymon), a new administrative and production base was erected on Profesora Buyka street 16, as well as new buildings of the electric grids district departments at Vynnyky, Briukhovychi, and Sykhiv, and the scale of electric grids doubled.
Now the LMEG serves 2,700 km of cable power lines and 700 km of aerial power lines with a voltage of 0.4-10 kV, seventy nine 6 kV distribution points, and more than 1100 transformer substations. The LMEG supplies electricity to nearly 300,000 private and legal customers.
Józef Tomicki was an engineer who managed the Municipal Electric Tracks (Miejskie Koleje Elektryczne) in 1897-1901 and the Municipal Electric Facilities (Miejskie Zakłady Elektryczne) in 1901-1925 in Lviv. Under his leadership, the electrification of the city was launched.
Directors of the MEF and LMEG:
Józef Tomicki (1897-1925); Marian Dziewoński (1925-1935); Stanisław Kozłowski (1935-1939); ? Lysenko (1939-1941); Tymofiy Koba (1941); Shavel Pyvovarov (1960-1965); Mykola Mineev (1965-1979); Taras Krukenytsky (1979-2002); Vasyl Kamut (2002-2005); Mykhaylo Khaman (2005-2007); Ihor Hnatiuk (2007-2018); Oleh Hryhlevych (from 2018).
- Державний архів Львівської області (ДАЛО) 2/4/1608.
- ДАЛО 2/25/185.
- ДАЛО 2/26/1836.
- ДАЛО 2/26/2157.
- ДАЛО 3/1/5095
- ДАЛО 3/1/5123.
- ДАЛО 3/1/5440.
- ДАЛО 3/1/5842.
- ДАЛО 36/2/598.
- "Taryfa światła gazowego i elektrycznego", Gazeta codzienna, 1909, Nr. 596.
- "Elektryczność lwowska", Słowo polskie, 1909, Nr. 70, 80.
- "Rada miejska, Warunki dostarczania prądu elektrycznego z m. elektrowni", Kurjer lwowski, 12.02.1909 r.
- Sprawozdanie o budowie Miejskiego Zakładu Elektrycznego i rozszerzeniu kolei elektrycznej we Lwowie w latach 1907, 1908 i 1909 (Lwów, 1911).
- 14. Józef Tomicki, Ze statystyki miejskich zakładów elektrycznych we Lwowie (Lwów, 1912).
- Gospodarka elektryczna w Polsce (Warszawa, 1926).
- O program elektryfikacji. Sprawozdanie z obrad ogólnokrajowego zjazdu elektrowni we Lwowie dn. 7-9 marca 1937 r. (Warszawa, 1937).
- 17. Gospodarka elektryczna w Polsce (Warszawa,1939).
- Андрій Крижанівський, Історія електрифікації Львівщини (Львів, 2015).
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