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Ministry of Energy opens cards

The Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation plans to create the map showing the potential for development of renewable energy in Russia. Until now, Russia has remained a "white spot" on the world map of energy alternatives.

The plans for creation of renewable energy sources (RES) map were announced by Yegor Grinkevych, the deputy director of the Department of Electric Power Development within the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation. He said that the Ministry will develop such an instrument in order to "have understanding of socially accepted approaches to development of generation based on renewable energy."

Power production based on renewable energy depends to a greater extent than any other one on geographical and weather conditions. Therefore, mapping of areas with detailed assessments of the renewable potential in Russia is a very timely issue. Although the maps of solar and wind energy are widely available in almost all regions, they do not contain the detailed data required by government agencies to understand the full potential of the country's resources, and by private sector enterprises to determine locations of specific objects.

Oliver Knight, a senior expert of the ESMAP mapping project, says: "The initiative to create maps for renewable energy plays a highly catalytic role. Mapping of resources is an important measure to ensure the resources and confidence in the policy required by commercial developers to expand investment in renewable energy. In addition, governmental agencies will get access to better information for negotiation on specific projects, and donors will have a clearer picture of the needs in the data and generating capacities, as well as of the potential of renewable energy sources in client countries."

Representatives of the Ministry of Energy write in the "Renewable Energy" section of the departmental website: "Until recently, for a variety of reasons, primarily because of the huge reserves of conventional energy resources, development of renewable energy sources in the energy policy of Russia received low attention. In recent years, the situation began to change noticeably. The need to fight for a better environment, new opportunities to improve the quality of life, participation in international development of advanced technologies, the desire to improve the energy efficiency of economic development, the logic of international cooperation - these and other considerations have contributed to promotion of national efforts to create more green energy, to the movement towards a low carbon economy."

According to the web site of the Ministry of Energy, "the volume of commercially available renewable energy resources in the Russian Federation is not less than 24 billion tons of standard fuel. The share of electricity produced in Russia from renewable sources in 2008 amounted to about 1% excluding hydropower with capacities over 25 MW, and more than 17% when including them. The share of the heat energy generated on the basis of renewable energy sources was about 3%, or about 2,000 million Gcal."

In late May this year, the Russian government approved a package of documents aimed at development of alternative energy. According to the innovations, the country shall introduce 6.2 GW of generating capacities from renewable energy sources until 2020, which will increase the share of these sources in the energy mix from 0.8% to 2.5%. In addition, Russia creates the Association of Renewable Energy, which will exist in the form of a non-commercial partnership. Being established by major players in the industry, it now passes the state registration and will be set up in Russia by October.

Mr. Grinkevych tells: "We plan quite a lot of work with experts in the field of renewable energy to assess the resource and economic potential of renewable energy in Russia. Frankly, at the moment the Government, the Ministry of Energy have no sufficiently detailed maps for technical and economic potential of renewable energy development in the digital form for all regions."

These plans are encouraging. However, so far, despite the abundance of renewable energy sources in Russia, only a very small fraction of this potential is used, and local projects remain few.