INTERVIEW - Russia likely to miss 2020 renewable energy goal
Aug 26, 2014 - According to the numbers set by the Russian government, the share of electricity generation from renewables has to reach 4.5% by 2020, up from less than 1% in 2001. Pavel Yakovlev, head of Russian firm Alternative Energy Systems (ENARGO), explains why this is not happening.
Q: Which factors contribute to, and which, on the contrary, hinder the development of alternative energy in the Russian Federation?
A: Unfortunately, nowadays there is nothing that would contribute to the development of alternative energy in the Russian Federation. Wide use of fuel powered generators can be considered only a weak driver, mostly aimed at a different target audience.
At the same time, several significant factors are serious development stoppers. The first and most important of them is an extremely low awareness of the possibilities of modern renewable energy bred by utter conservatism on all spheres. For example, there are still very few university departments related to anything renewable besides hydropower plants. The existing approach to power supply problem solving and the usual distrust of Russians for “Western” innovations also do not help.
The second factor is the complete lack of interest for the development and innovation at any level. Russia is still ruled by the hydrocarbon lobby. Hence we have all these preposterous and absurd claims that wind turbines are harmful to the moles and birds, or that “the Russian Federation’s wind and sun potential is insufficient”.
The third factor is the complete absence of state support. Formally, there exist a number of positive examples but de-facto green tariffs are not working. The Market Council of Energy can develop lots of complex and intricate procedures for qualification and billing renewable energy sources facilities. But the Crimea is a "wonderful" example of the opposite trend. Before its annexation it had four or five highly efficient solar power stations but now they are all switched off.
Targets for renewable power supply set by the Russian energy complex programme for development till 2020 are still to be met and are likely not to be achieved even by a third.
Q: What regions can become the most active consumers of various renewable energy sources in the future? Could you list a number of promising projects across Russia?
A: The efficiency of modern equipment guarantees that the renewable resources of any region are enough to cover consumption in its full. And countries that do control the future show a development of renewable sources from levels of 50% of overall energy consumption in Germany to 90% in Norway. The US and China also keep increasing their renewable capacities, whilst Russia is still sticking to the myth about the cheapness of nuclear energy.
Agora had recently conducted a large-scale study comparing the real cost of nuclear kWh to the one of wind and sun. Nuclear energy has never been cheap, simply no one has ever specified its cost. The construction of nuclear giants in the USSR demanded enormous investments. But they were taken for granted since they functioned as proof of the superiority of socialism. Carry out market calculations, take into account the cost of constructing and servicing nuclear power stations, add the cost of waste disposal, and most importantly, the cost of risks, and it becomes clear that nuclear plants had never been profitable. One Chernobyl is enough to destroy this myth. How much did the liquidation of the consequences cost? For what period of time has the country lost such a huge area?
As for promising projects, I could name Belgorod region, where biogas technology is seeing the light of day. It is a must-have for every agricultural region, but nowhere in Russia is it developing so fast. Belgorod’s regional administration and local biogas companies are doing a great job!
ENARGO develops custom power solutions for decentralised energy facilities based on renewable energy. It supplies European equipment and now also offers its own range of wind turbines and solar panels. Since there is no market segmentation in Russia, ENARGO works with a completely different target audience: business-to-business, business-to-customer, educational institutions, private customers, etc.