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“Conservative Realism” for Russian Energetics

Russia can quadruple its quota in renewable energy sources in it power balance by 2030.  The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) had presented a special report on the “RESs Road Map 2030. Prospects for the Development of Renewable Energy for RF.” Even the ambitious plans we can hear today can provide for a lot less than Russia needs and than it corresponds to its RESs resources, representatives of public environmental organizations believe.

The Report dedicated to Russia is a part of the International “REmap: Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future.” In this document, experts listed four major moving forces which can expedite the development of renewable energy in RF: economic activities and creation of new jobs; progress of science and technologies; power supply to remote regions; improvement of the environmental situation.

According to the IRENA’s data, the present accumulated capacity of renewable energy sources (RESs) in Russia amounts to 53.5 GWt.  That said, 51.GWt (i.e., the major amount) is provided by hydraulic power industry; the International Renewable Energy Agency traditional takes into its accounts.  The remaining 2 GWt account for bio energy, wind stations, solar photo electrical panels and geo thermal energy.   

What future does IRENA see for the renewable energy sources in Russia by 2030?  The Report contains two scenarios: the “usual way of activities” and more ambitious “Remap.”

The “usual way of activities” corresponds to the draft of the “Energy Strategy of Russia for the Period up to 2035.” In this version, the terminal consumption of energy produced by renewable energy sources should approximately double and suffice for about 5% of demand for all types of energy in 2030, IRENA’s experts claim.

According to their forecasts, hydraulic power industry will remain the principal renewable energy source in Russia. The researchers see the prospects of RESs development in Russia in utilization of substantial amounts of biomass.  They believe that the bio energy market will significantly grow at the account of increase of bio fuel consumption for production of thermal energy and in the transport sector.  By 2030, under the “modest scenario” established capacity of solar power plants will amount to 2.7 GWt and to 5 GWt for wind-powered generating plants.

According to the “ambitious” REmap scenario, by 2030, the RESs quota in the end-use energy demand might grow up in nearly 4 times as compared to the present level.  Experts believe that the renewable energy quota in power production will exceed 34%; by analytics’ assessments, hydraulic power industry will remain dominating here.  The quota of renewable energy in the production of thermal energy should be about 15%. The highest growth rate of renewable energy sources utilization will be observed in the Russian transport sector: by 2030, the renewable energy sources quota will reach 7% as compared to 1% in 2010.   

In case of implementation of the REmap scenario, the total established capacity of wind-powered generating plants will grow up to 23 GWt, while the solar plants capacity will reach 5 GWt and bio energy plants will produce 26 GWt.  The accumulated quota of the sun and wind in the total power production will amount to 3.4% in 2030.  That said, by foreign experts’ estimates, Russia has the highest in the world wind power potential. 

Experts estimate the total amount of investments needed to accomplishment of the REmap scenario at the level of USD 300 billion, i.e. about $15 billion annually during the 2010-2030 period.  At the same time, experts are sure that benefits may noticeably exceed expenditures if we take into account such external factors as public health and climate change adaptation.  Experts also believe that the significant amount of power generated by the Russian hydraulic power industry and wind-powered generating plants will be available to exporting to Asian countries. 

Russian experts say that in regards of Russia, the International Renewable Energy Agency bases its report on the principle of “conservative realism.” “The REmap-2030 scenarios for other countries came out quite aggressive; however, in the case of Russia, it is rather moderate, particularly in the part of power industry development.  IRENA had come up with a “composed report, made for a country with no ambitious development goals, Vladimir Sidorovich, Director General of the Interest of Energy Efficient Technologies in Construction Development, believes.  Five GWt of the established capacity for solar power production by 2030... some countries build as much within a year.  However, it is clear that IRENA experts have to correlate their forecasts with local strategic policies...”

Many domestic experts see the focus on the development of the hydraulic power industry as problematic.  Olga Senova, Director of the Climate Secretariat of the Russian Social Ecological Union, drew attention to the serious damages caused by constructions of major HPS dams (and it is exactly on those that the ambitious scenario is based) to the natural ecosystems, residents of flooded territories including indigenous peoples who lose their traditional habitats and scope of activities.  

A number of experts do not share the optimism of the report’s authors in the part of bio energy: “it somehow disharmonizes the real policies.”  Russian experts believe that the bio energy potential (including exporting options) in the country is, in fact, enormous; however, there is no focused policy in this sphere. Only a sustainable forestry and agricultural management system and waste utilization in these industries for power production can be the basis for real development of bio energy in Russia. 

In the opinion of IRENA Director General Adnan Amin, RF has an enormous potential for the development of “green” energy.  To implement it, it is necessary to continue providing support to scholarly and technological development and creating conditions for RESs market formation.  From its part, IRENA is ready to provide help Russia in implementation of its goals on increasing the quota of renewable energy in the country’s power balance.