More Renewables in Russia: Yes, We Can (and Want?)

Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Energy Alexey Teksler, during his speech at the UN Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Forum that took place in Austria earlier this month, proclaimed Russia’s intention to increase renewable energy production 10 times. Russian environmental NGOs say that the country’s real renewable energy potential exceeds the announced level by far, yet the effort demonstrated by the authorities in this respect has been insignificant.

According to the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative that was introduced by the UN Secretary General in 2011, the access to modern energy sources must become universal, the level of energy efficiency will grow two times, just as much as the share of renewable energy sources in the world energy balance by 2030.

At the moment, global statistics related to renewable energy look the following way: wind and solar power are the fastest growing energy sectors with the annual growth rate of 30 to 35%. According to various forecasts, by 2030 renewable energy sources will satisfy 40% of the global energy demand and up to 80% of the demand by 2050. Furthermore, by 2050, the world will be able to obtain 100% of electrical energy from renewables. China in planning on increasing the share of renewables in electrical energy production up to 15%, Egypt – up to 20% and the European Union – up to 30%.

‘Russia continues its work to increase energy efficiency in industry, and intends to increase the number of renewable energy generating sources 10 times in the nearest 5 to 6 years,’ Alexey Teksler said at SE4ALL. Speaking from the UN General Assembly platform, he reminded everyone that Russia was the world’s largest producer and exporter of primary energy resources. ‘The issues of global energy security, as well as fighting energy poverty, are very important to us. And we believe that the role of Russia in finding a solution to them is big,’ Teksler added. He noted also, that Russia is actively promoting the development of renewable energy. ‘Speaking of energy saving and energy efficiency, Russia is setting a goal to reduce the energy intensity of its GDP by at least 40% by 2020, compared to the 2007 level.’

The current share of renewable energy sources in Russian economy is under 1%. In this situation the plans announced by the Deputy Minister, are hard to give a straightforward interpretation. There is a goal to increase the share of renewables in the country’s energy balance up to 4.5%, which is officially set by the Government’s executive order, and it does not include big hydropower stations of more than 23 megawatts (the so-called Big Hydro).

The Deputy Minister probably did include the grandiose plans for Big Hydro, which is not considered an alternative energy source anymore anywhere else in the world. Maybe even, he was not talking about the plans to support renewable energy on the federal level, and only meant the currently established trend of the growth of private investment into alternative energy. In fact, more and more companies invest in renewable energy development in Russia every year.
Besides, the ministerial plans are not an action plan, yet. For instance, Russia’s plans to increase energy efficiency are lagging way behind the previously announces targets.

Despite having a huge resource of wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower, as well as biomass, Russia is still lagging way behind in terms of increasing the share of renewables, as well as industrial technologies to process different types of renewables.

In 2009, Greenpeace published an alternative scenario of energy development in Russia, which was very well researched, and proved that renewable-based power stations will be able to supply 13% of Russia’s total electric energy by 2020.

‘The ministerial announcement on the 10-fold increase of renewable energy production is a good sign,’ says Olga Senova, Head of Russian Socio-Ecological Union’s Climate Secretariat. ‘For Russia, considering all its territorial, natural, climate and socio-economic features, it is vitally important to develop integrated systems of energy supply, based on the use of renewable energy sources – especially on autonomous territories that are located too far from the centralized energy grid. In order to make that happen we must stop subsidizing fossil fuels, as well as the construction of new nuclear power and large-scale hydropower stations. If the Government helped the investors to get a stable income from renewable energy (by introducing tax exemptions and other financial support mechanisms), then wind, solar and hydropower could become a serious competitor to coal and nuclear power.’