Kazakhstan moves toward renewable energy


ASTANA – In an effort to save money and natural resources, Kazakhstan is looking for ways to use renewable energy sources.

About 20-30% of domestically consumed energy can be saved through the use of heat- and energy-saving technology,” Yaroslav Romanchik of the Centre for Energy Efficiency and Clean Production said.

Wind- and water-based solutions are considered the most viable, but Igor Kharchenko, an analyst at the Moscow-based Centre for Study of World Energy Markets, warned that building new plants might turn out inordinately expensive for Kazakhstan.

Cost-benefit analysis needs to be weighed

“The most promising alternative energy sector structure, considering Kazakhstan’s natural conditions, would be wind-power generation, and the country has already made a few steps in that direction,” he said. “But that would be 5 to 6 times more costly than conventional power generation, or even still more expensive, and wind-power facilities in this budding sector would take billions to build and maintain.”

However, Gennady Doroshin of the UN Development Programme (UNDP)’s Wind Energy Development Project in Kazakhstan rejected the idea of comparing wind-power and electric engineering costs, saying wind-power investment is bound to pay off with time.

“The larger a wind-power generation project, the less costly it will be, and the sooner it will be repaid,” Kharchenko said, adding that “Kazakhstan will nevertheless require big investments for the purpose.”

Hydro-electric power is another option

Other alternative projects have been implemented, too. EnergoAlem Co. and a bank combined to build a small hydro-electric station on the Issyk River two years ago. It has since produced power 5 to 6 times more cheaply than a conventional generating plant, and it requires 10% of the manpower.

“Just 150 such hydro-electric stations would cover 90% of the country’s energy needs, since this kind of water-generated power would be equivalent to that produced by burning hundreds of thousands of tonnes of coal,” station director Kenzhemurat Mukenbayev said.

“The Issyk hydro-electric station requires only three operators, and it’s environmentally safe,” Mukenbayev said, adding that it was designed to simplify life and work. “The land, air and water of the Ile-Alatau national park remain intact, while the station powers the entire city of Yesik (with a population of 33,000).”

Kazakhstan has to turn to alternative energy sources because traditional sources are being exhausted and their prices are rising, Zhakyp Bokenbayev, director of the Department for Development of Electrical Energy and the Coal Industry at Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and New Technologies, said. He, too, objected to comparing wind-power generation rates to those of conventional power generation.

Wind power has future prospects

While wind-power generation is not profitable for Kazakhstan at this point, it has long-term prospects, Ainur Sospanova, country manager of the Kazakhstan – Wind Power Market Development Initiative co-sponsored by the UNDP, Kazakh government and Global Environment Facility, noted.

“Finland’s VTT (Technical Research Centre) and Kazakhstan’s Institute of Energy have drawn up ‘Kazakhstan’s Wind Atlas’ at UNDP request,” she said. “A study of 15 sites in several Kazakh regions as part of the programme showed Kazakh wind-power generation has great potential.”

Kazakhstan will have to replace part of the energy that comes from burning hydrocarbons with alternative energy sources by 2030, Hannele Holttinen noted. It could eventually depend on wind to provide 2,000MW of its annual energy requirement of 30GW, Holttinen said.

The government recognises the need to reduce the country’s dependence on carbon fuels, Environmental Protection Deputy Minister Eldana Sadvakasova said last year.

Meanwhile, the Samruk Kazyna sovereign wealth fund signed a co-operation agreement with China’s power giant, the Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (GNPC), in 2010. The pact calls for GNPC and Kazakhstan’s Nuclear Power Ministry to construct wind-power stations to produce wind and solar energy in the future and to build mini-hydropower stations.