The Sun for Russia

The solar power development will attract more investments than the coal, gas, and nuclear power production combined: the Frost & Sullivan Research Company presented its report on the “Global Power Industry Outlook 2017.” So far, no rapid development of solar power development can be seen in Russia, despite its huge potential in this sphere.

Authors of the Global Power Industry Outlook 2017 examined tendencies in the power production market, investments in this sphere, and special considerations for regional development of power branches. They came to the conclusion that in the current year, investments in the renewable energy sources (RESs) will achieve USD 243.1 billion (without HPSs); this includes the record USD 141.6 billion for solar power production which is 11.5% higher than in 2016. In Europe, renewable energy sources will attract 73.4% of all investments in power production.

While the established (total, nominal) capacity of the global coal generation will grow, investments in this sector will keep going steadily down, the report says.

In the opinion of the researchers, the major trends in the global energy industry are: even more dynamic transfer to decentralized and intellectual power systems and reduction of RESs primary costs. In many regions of the world the solar power production now is economically competitive if compared to other types of generation: its cost is rapidly going down. For instance, the United Arab Emirates had recently claimed the lowest ever prices for one kilowatt-hour at the level of $0.0242 (1.4 Ruble). Besides, introduction of innovative business models will stimulate rational power consumption and break-through in the technologies for its storage, experts believe.

The Head of the Australian Branch of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance research company Kobad Bhavnagri believes that by 2032, it will be more profitable to build a new solar generating station than to exploit an already existing coal plant.

The Head of Rosnano Company Anatoly Chubais said, “If we speak not from the business viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of a country’s outlook, the solar power production in Russia has already emerged and, from now on, it will merely grow and grow up, step by step, in its capacities.”

The First Deputy Minister of RF Energy Alexey Teksler presented the actual figures: “In 2015-2016, fourteen major solar generating stations with accumulated capacity of about 130 MWt had been commissioned in Russia. This year, new solar generating stations with 90 MWt total capacity.”

From the potential viewpoint, prospects of the solar power production are quite expiring: by the data of the Institute of Energy Strategy, the economic potential, i.e., the real possibilities of the national economy, amount to 12.5 million tons of fuel equivalent per year. Generally speaking, the production potential of the solar power coming onto the territory of Russia within only three days exceeds the total amount of yearly power production in our country, the scholars give the data.

However, it is pretty obvious that despite the optimistic assessments, the solar power production and development of the entire RESs industry in Russia is still far away from the stage of boisterous growth and it is not yet included in the state’s “core” strategic plans.

The “localization” requirements (the quota of domestic product in the product and process - editor's note) are demanding, while capacities brought to tenders are in times lower than in other countries. In the opinion of market participants, the tough Russia’s requirements on the localization level for RESs equipment make a serious barrier, Forbes experts wrote. The measures of state support for RESs are not adequate enough for broad-scale RESs implementation.”

In experts’ opinion, several internal and external factors will be influencing the rates of solar power production in Russia.

Cost of solar photo-electric unitsPresently, solar photo elements are one of the most expensive technologies of power production; however, this is one of the most quickly falling down in price segments.

Environmental norms and regulations. Development of the solar power production might benefit from strengthening international environmental regulations (restrictions and penalties) and carbon market establishment.

Local authorities’ initiatives.

Balance between supply and demand in the energy market. Realization of the existing plans for construction and reconstruction of generating and power network capacities of the companies segregated from RAO UES Russia and decommissioning of old capacities will significantly increase power production and is able to reduce prices at the wholesale market.

Problems with technological linking. Delays in execution of requests for technological linking with the centralized system of power supply will inevitably lead to consumers’ search for alternative options for power supply.

Availability of research and developments and national production facilities is a serious stimulus and possibility for the development of solar power production in Russia. Modernization of the Novocheboksarsk plant of the Hevel Group which will produce solar modules with parameters corresponding to the best world’s indicators has just been accomplished. These batteries are produced on the basis of domestic technologies. Russia has its own know-how; however, it takes only too long to move from the pilot project to conveyer production. In the meantime, Chinese equipment is rapidly getting cheaper and gets upgraded every two or three months.

“We cannot tolerate reduction of financing practical measures on enhancing energy efficiency and introduction of renewable energy sources,” representatives of public environmental organizations wrote in their Position. “Risks of technological lag between Russia and developed countries should inspire the Russian Government to make serious steps for the support of the renewable energy industry in Russia,” experts endorse the public activists’ opinion. “The authorities should establish an accessible for broad entrepreneurs’ circles support system with no procedural barriers, create business mechanisms for RESs support, and shape a system where the market itself will dictate the rate of renewable energy implementation.”