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Alternative energy in Russia

Recently, there were lots of news on the Western countries, which actively invest in projects connected to the renewable energy sources (RES). Lack of own oil and gas reserves,  governments involvement in the development of relevant energy infrastructure, as well as steps undertaken by leading industrial countries on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, create all necessary preconditions for the development of RES industry. Germany steps out as a pioneer in this field. At the end of 2010, the German government developed an energy concept which implies that electricity generation in Germany will be largely based on renewable energy, which will be supported by introduction of an energy efficiency system and creation of new facilities. Germany has made a decision to phase out its nuclear power plants by the year of 2022.

What about the RES development in Russia? And how the leading experts, politicians and scientists engaged in energy sector, view this development?  In order to get an answer to this question, the company "Bashkirova and partners" has conducted a study. The findings present state of things in the area of the RES and the relevant energy policies in Russia, as well as to point out the current development trends in this sphere.  This article introduces the key opinions drawn from expert interviews.

All the experts are united in their opinion that Russia should approach the matter of the RES development very seriously. However any energy system restructuring, particularly the transition to the renewable energy sources, will require huge investments, and at the beginning of the transition, the green energy will be much more expensive also for the ordinary consumers.  Russia possesses the richest reserves of oil and gas, but these natural resources are getting gradually exhausted. For this reason, it’s critically important to make use of peculiarities of different climate zones and the unique geographical leverage of the country: thermal springs, solar energy in Russia’s Southern regions, power of the sea and ocean in coastlines, wind power.  Furthermore the experts suppose that the development and introduction of renewable energy in the Russian territory is likely to commence gradually starting from Far East and Kamchatka regions. This territorial approach will provide a solution to the issue of more effective and uninterruptable power supply for these remote areas, while also creating spare capacities.

The expert community members state that important steps were taken in Russia over the past years in this regard. The renewable energy topic appeared on the agenda in the environment protection related program of Russia for the period of 2006-2008. Specifically, procedures were carried out to describe application and handling of “green certificates”. Additionally, first steps have been made  for the development of amendments in Federal Law 35-F3 “On Electric Power” focusing on the renewable energy sources. At the same time we could see opposing among executive power leaders in relation of strategic prospects for RES development. Some of them believe the program  of RES development  has already been worked out and now just needs consistent implementation. The others are sure the Russian government strategy is focused not on the RES development, but modernization and potential improvements for the nuclear power industry.

Respondents from the science sector recognize the relevance of the renewable energy resources, but note this should not mean giving up and destruction of the existing energy system in Russia. The system requires modernization, modification and improvement, but not destruction. Besides, according to the experts, the oil and gas processing industry needs even more intense development, where Russia should come out to the market offering not raw materials but oil and gas commodities, i.e. electric power.

Environment  related respondents mention some programs on adaptation of the renewable energy sources in Russia, which have been successfully implemented. Such as the program of “Smart Energy”, where they apply technologies allowing reduction of СО2 and СО4 gas emissions. However, overall, according to these respondents no appropriate system for practical implementation and usage of the RES has been yet established.

Thus, despite Russia’s rich reserves of natural resources essential for RES development, it is obvious that using RES presently will appear more expensive compared to traditional energy sources. This is possibly  what hinders active investing into this industry sector in Russia. However in future, it could lead to the situation when the entire world would be getting considerable share of electricity generated using alternative energy, while Russia will have to purchase licenses for using relevant know-how and latest technologies. Experts believe that given situation could change for the better only through relevant legislative initiatives of the government.

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