Traditions and Innovations

Nov 15. Kazpravda

By Kulpash KONYROVA

By 2030 Kazakhstan plans to create a smart grid system.

Traditions and InnovationsKazakhstan for few decades could easily use its resource potential. But the republic has set an ambitious goal: by 2030 to increase the share of renewable energy sources (RES) to 10 %.

Of course, this move should be painless for the economy and society and it must bring only benefit to people and environment. What sources of energy are better to choose? These and other issues were discussed at the recent VIII Eurasian Forum KazEnergy within the panel session “Providing Sustainable Energy Future” held in Astana.

The trend of the time is RES

The future of energy in the world is associated with development of alternative sources. These include wind, solar, biomass, geothermal energy, new forms of nuclear power. The purpose of this desire is to reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere and minimize the negative results of human activity on the environment.

The benefits of renewable energy sources (RES) are well known. They are in their very name. But there are also disadvantages: first of all it is still great price for new technologies, the second is impermanence and the third is the problem of integration into already existing system.

Thus, according to the specialists, the introduction in Kazakhstan of the most, as it would seem affordable renewable energy — wind power leads to significant financial costs.

But to be more accurate, there is much vulnerability of renewable energy sources for their extensive and widespread use in this country. First, it is their variability that can result in downtime capacity; secondly is their uncertainty, which requires a safety net for additional generating sources; and thirdly it is the specificity of location.

– To compensate electric power generation in the absence of wind or solar power, we need to build more flexible capacities (power plants). It will require in turn more investment in infrastructure, which should support the duplication of capacities, — said Board’s chairman of Samruk -Energo Almasadam Satkaliyev.

In order to introduce renewable energy in full scale in our country, we need according to experts, a breakthrough in energy storage, but again this way will lead to a significant increase in costs.

The smart grids

That’s why today one of the major trends in electric power industry is the transition to smart grids. The main advantages of such systems are flexibility, manageability, availability of storage (accumulating) stations, the ability to ensure seamless integration of RES through construction of combined power plants, renewable energy sources, such as RES+ Pumped Storage Station. According to Almasadam Satkaliev, by 2030 Samruk -Energo sees the need to create in Kazakhstan a smart grid system -KSGS the purpose of which is to ensure reliability of electric power supply.

Clean coal technologies

But despite the country’s commitment to the development of renewable energy, at this stage the coal energy, which is referred to traditional energy sources, will be further developed. As known, 80 % of all electricity in Kazakhstan is produced from coal.

According to domestic experts, Kazakhstan should not hurry with the substitution of coal power by gas which is cleaner, or by any other types of energy. Today, by contrast, the global trends indicate an increase in the share of coal in the energy sector.

The national energy engineering laboratory in the city of Pittsburgh, which determines the global energy policy, has now concentrated its efforts on the development of new clean coal technologies, which represent a transition to «green economy.»

Thus, according to estimates of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the share of coal-fired generation in the global electricity production is currently about 41 %. Moreover, by 2030 this figure will increase to 44% (mainly due to the growth in coal-fired generation in China and India).

As for Kazakhstan with its large deposits of coal, it is expedient to develop those areas that coincide with the energy sources of the region.

– Country advantage in one or another form of energy source is always crucial when considering energy security. And we should not apply ready-made scripts, because they can be useless to us, — said the head of Samruk-Energy.

Indeed, we should take into account the fact that reduction of jobs in the coal industry, which is one of the most energy intensive on human resources, is fraught with strikes. Also we should bear in mind another social aspect: tariffs for electricity, which is a very sensitive sphere. As known the cheapest coal is in Kazakhstan, as it is produced by open method.

According to the head of Samruk -Energo, the future of coal power in Kazakhstan will be associated with development of «clean coal technologies.» A number of steps have already been taken in this direction.

Thus, for the past four years Ekibastuz GRES- 1 and GRES -2 were reconstructed including upgrading of ash handling systems with the installation of electrostatic precipitators on 6 units in total. In October -November of the current year electrostatic filters were installed on two more blocks of GRES -1, and thereby all 8 existing units at two stations have been equipped with modern ash treatment. Together, this will reduce the emissions of ash into the atmosphere by 120 tons per year. Similar equipment will be installed during the construction of the Balkhash thermal power plant.

Nuclear trends

As for nuclear technologies, they are attractive for their zero emissions. For Kazakhstan, the development of nuclear power is promising from the point of view of availability of resource base. As known, at present, the Government considers the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan.

In the case of positive solution of this issue, reactors of 3rd and 4th generation with enhanced degree of safety will be built in the republic.

In addition, now there is much talk in the world about fusion energy. According to available information in media, the scientists are on the verge of creating industrial technology of power generation based on fusion of light nuclei.

According to the statement of Osamu Motojima, CEO of the international project on the construction of an experimental fusion reactor ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor)  made at the end of August this year, it is expected that by 2027 the first nuclear fusion power plant with capacity of 500 MW will be built.

And Kazakh experts believe that the fusion reactor may become the principal source of energy for centuries, as deuterium and tritium reserves are virtually inexhaustible. At that the thermonuclear reactor is much safer than a conventional nuclear reactor.

Future of Kazakhstan’s Energy is in diversification

Summarizing all the above, we can see several ways to develop the fuel and energy complex of the republic. The first is a direct transition from coal to renewable energy generation. But this, as mentioned above, leads to significant costs and low reliability of supply, requiring compensation of generation or energy storage technologies.

The second, conservative way involves the use of traditional energy sources, but in that case, the issue of transition to “green energy” in quite questionable.

As for nuclear energy, new technologies raise it to a special category and allow reaching such energy generation on the border with renewable energy sources. Moreover, nuclear energy could become basic in the future.

– In our view, in the future renewable energy sources will be used along with traditional in Kazakhstan. It will be a sort of mix of all kinds of energy sources – said A. Satkaliyev.

According to him, in such conditions, diversification of Kazakhstan’s «energy portfolio» will allow, on the one hand to fully use rich resource potential of our country, and on the other – to protect against excessive carbon and hydrocarbon dependence.

The question is careful study of all possibilities of new types of energy production, and their successful introduction in the future.

– I think that this approach is reasonable not only for Kazakhstan, — said the head of Samruk -Energo.

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