Sustainable energy development is on the Russian agenda

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Global warming is a reality. Switching to clean energy can be one of the ways to keep climate change under control, but it is critical for all countries to unite in this action. Russia has an enormous potential for renewables but, at the moment, it is barely put into practice. What is the future of renewable energy in Russia?

20.02.2019
Maria Vediakova

Russia is one of the leading countries in electricity production and consumption in the world. At the same time more than a half of electric power in the country (about 70%) is produced by thermal power plants. Where is usually used rather cheap organic fuel such as coal and oil. These are irreplaceable natural resources, moreover combustion of fuel involves a lot of outcomes which inevitably become the leading causes of global warming; increase in the sea level, temperature anomalies, more frequent extreme weather conditions, – all these consequences are starting to happen now. To constrain global warming, we need to reduce emissions by 50–60% by 2030.

Switching to green energy can become a logical solution to this problem, especially taking into account that Russia has a huge potential for their use. For example, the continental climate dominating in Russia attracts considerable solar radiation, which means that solar energy can become one of the alternatives to fossil fuels. The same can be said about wind power – wind potential in Russia is the biggest in the world.

Inspired by the RE100 initiative, international companies have started looking for ways to use renewables in Russia. It is worth noticing that construction of the wind farms in Russia is gaining the steam: the first wind farm was built in Ulyanovsk region in the beginning of this year. Further projects are planned in Rostov region, Republic of Kalmykia, Perm and Stavropol regions. But there are still some important questions that remain unanswered. How to buy renewable energy on the national grid? And how to create the reliable tracking system?

Fortunately, there are more and more people starting to work on these issues and contributing to the development of green electricity in Russia. At the recent conference «The Future of Renewables in Russia» the setup of a new non-profit organisation was announced. At the moment the new «Association of Renewable Power Development» includes the largest players of the Russian electricity market, such as, RUSNANO, Hevel, Solar Systems and others.

«The association is created to assist in attracting the investments into Russian RE sector as well as promoting the use of renewable sources. The association is meant to be a platform for adoption of joint strategic decisions, discussions of the legislative initiatives and other issues concerning renewables» – said Ekaterina Guseva, a spokesperson of the Association.

The new NGO is also planning to work on the reliable certificate system, which absence is a big problem for the international organizations represented in Russia.

«The renewable energy certificate system in Russia exists, but it is used for subsidies and statistical reasons, it can not be bought or sold by individual consumers. This issue is already handled to the Market Council, certainly the Association will actively participate in this process«.

GN7 is another association which is promoting renewable energy in Russia. Its name comes from EU sustainable development goals, the seventh of which is devoted to development of available and clean energy.

«At the moment plans of our organization are concentrated around two key activities. – says Tatyana Lanshina, CEO of GN7, – the First goal is promoting renewable energy in Russia. Now many Russians think that RE is expensive and unreliable. Our aim is to dispel these myths and to make RE a reality. The second goal is to work with a corporate demand for renewable power.»

According to the report of Anatoly Chubais, the head of the new Association of Renewable Power Development, by 2024 generation of solar and wind energy in Russia will reach 1%. It is a quite modest figure in comparison with the recent 17% in the UK or 25% in Germany.

«But we should not despair«, – says Tatyana Lanshina, – «More than half of all the investments go into the renewable energy sector, expenses of solar and wind power continue to decrease (and in many countries RE is already competitive in price) and also considering the inevitability of growth of electricity rates in Russia and the need to fight against different types of cross subsidizing, renewable power looks rather appealing for the Russian market. In the near future Russia most likely will reconsider more than once the pessimistic official expectations of the development of RE and be more optimistic«.

All this gives a reason to hope that development of renewables in Russia will become a trend. Significant change in the Russian electricity market is already happening. Very soon each of us will be able to choose to buy renewable energy and support a greener future.