Renewable energy in Russia: no dynamic growth to expect

Development of the renewable energy sources in Russia has to start from literally zero level: starting parameters were described in the RF Government Order № 1209-r (the General Layout of the Russian Power Objects). According to the document, “the established capacity of power stations of the centralized power supply in Russia amounted to 243.2 mln KWt as of the beginning of 2016; of that, power plants functioning on the basis of renewable energy sources produced 0.4% (9 mln KWt).” Renewable energy sources’ power production for the same period of time amounted to no more than 0.2% of the general production.  

Authors of the General Layout do not seriously acknowledge the potential of the kilowatts received from the sun and the wind.  The document presents a detailed description of the existing and to be constructed nuclear, thermal, and hydro power plants with established capacity exceeding 100 MWt.  However, the document contains no explicit description of RES facilities and their locations.    

From the text of the General Layout it follows that a large number of obsolete nuclear and thermal power capacities will be pulled out of the national power sector operation; their total capacity might amount to 66.1 mln KWt by 2035. Not so great ambitious and, obviously, not able to compensate the capacities to be lost, commissioning of 1.8 mln KWt of RES facilities is scheduled for the same period of time.  However, the document indicates that the scenario for an increase up to 11.6 mln KWt is under consideration.

Authors of the General Layout do not even try to conceal their negative attitude towards the renewable power generation. They indicated that “the increase of the established capacity of generating facilities functioning on the basis of renewable energy sources up to 11.6 mln KWt by 2035 will produce negative impact on utilization of thermal power plants.”

Practically at the same time with publication of the General Layout of the Russian Power Objects, outcomes of the Tender for RES Facilities to be constructed prior to 2022 were announced.  Slightly more than 40% of the total RESs amount to be constructed during this period had been selected on the competitive basis.

The strongest competition took place among the projects of wind power generation.  In this sphere, the state supported the Rosatom Corporation (360 MWt capacity), Fortum OJSC (six objects with total capacity of 1,000 MWt), and the Enel Russia Company (two wind parks with accumulated capacity of 291.06 MWt).

Competition in the solar power generation (520 MWt) took place between the two only presently existing market participants: the Renova Group (440 MWt) and the Solar Systems Ltd. (80 MWt).  Two 24.9 MWt objects to be constructed by the RusHydro Power Generation Company were selected in the small hydro power production.

Outcomes of the competitive selection of RES facilities to get the state support could be called record high in the entire history of the Russian RESs development: 2280.86 MWt. However, if we take into consideration that these amounts are scheduled for implementation in the next five years, this brings us to figures hardly exceeding 400 MWt per year. “This is a very modest index by global standards, more suitable for small economies.  In Germany, they commission this amount within two or three months, and that in the solar power generation only,” Vladimir Sidorovich, Director General of the Energy Efficient Technologies Institute ANCO believes.

In fact, the modest capacities of commissioned facilities within the frames of the state programs were to be expected: the indicated figures correspond to the earlier approved documents and the content of the Energy Development Strategy.  According to those, by 2035, the quota of the types of RESs (without the big hydro power generation) should be somewhat between 2 and 3%. 

In the meantime, IRENA REmap international experts’ assessments show that accumulated capacity of only wind power plants in Russia has the potential to reach 23.3 GWt capacity by 2030.  By the forecast of the International Energy Agency (IEA), this amount will reach the 19% quota in Russia’s power production already by 2024.  This should be enough to cover about 10% of all country’s power supply and create about 50 thousand jobs in the wind power sector.  

Indexes of RES capacities commissioning in Russia had already altered already three times; after the most recent amendment in February 2017, a part of the wind generation and generation at the account of small HPSs was granted to the solar power generation and waste incineration plants; the RSEU Climate Secretariat wrote  about this.

Recently, amendments for the support of micro generation were accepted at the government level.  However, in the experts’ opinion, there is little hope that with no additional stimulating and support this might become the driver of the RESs market in Russia. Russian owners of private businesses need not only permissions for linking their micro generation to the network, but also the startup financial support. 

“By the end of 2024, even in case of ideal concatenation of circumstances, only 5% of the established capacity of RF generation will be produced by RESs.  In the reality, it will hardly be more than 2 or 3%.  And this is far away from revolutionary changes,”  Tatyana Lanshina, Senior Researcher at the Center for Economic Modelling of Power and Ecology of the Russian Academy of National Economy and State Service affiliated with the RF President (RANE&SS) told to Kislorod Life.  “If Russia manages to give an impulse to the wind power industry on the basis of existing technological and production resources in the nearest several years, then the wind power market will have a bright future and might additionally facilitate the long-term prosperity in the country creating hundreds of thousands jobs and providing the country with strong positions in the global energy market.” 

“Renewable energy sources and the long-term strategy of low-carbon development and not the fossil fuel should become the drivers of the Russian economy and incentives for the development of new technologies, and give a chance to stay in the trend of global tendencies,” Olga Senova, Climate Secretariat of the Russian Social Ecological Union, believes.