Kazakhstan develops alternative energy

Kazakhstan expects to finish building 9 renewable energy facilities in December

Dec 03. Central Asia Online. ASTANA

By Alexander Bogatik

Kazakhstan develops alternative energyThe need to gradually transition from hydrocarbon sources of energy, like gas, oil and coal, to renewable ones (solar, wind and water power) is understood throughout the whole world now, and Kazakhstan is no exception.

Kazakhstan is building renewable energy facilities not only because its hydrocarbon energy sources are limited, but also because its Soviet-era equipment is wearing out.

In one step to address such challenges, Astana will be hosting EXPO-2017, an international exposition on “energy of the future.”

One of the event’s key tasks is to stimulate the development of renewable sources of energy.

Renewable energy’s place in the world

In 2014, Kazakhstan is expected to generate 97.9 billion kWH of power. More than 107 billion KZT (US $590m) in total was invested in renewable energy facilities, including 21.4 billion KZT (US $120m) of Kazakhstani government funds and 85.6 billion KZT (US $470m) in foreign loans, according to the 2010-2014 programme for developing power plants in Kazakhstan.

“Relying on renewable energy in today’s world is more important than ever before,” Aset Magauov, general director of Kazenergy, an association of more than 70 Kazakhstani energy companies. “Equipment is greatly deteriorating in the country. Power production is experiencing a difficult time.”

Over the past five years, Kazakhstan has completed 16 renewable energy facilities: it built 7 small hydroelectric plants, 6 wind farms, and 3 solar power stations. The power stations collectively produce 32MW of electricity.

This year alone, “nine new alternative energy plants, which will be operational before the end of 2014, will collectively produce 113MW of electricity,” the Energy Ministry said in a statement.

Kazakhstan’s solar power hopes

Kazakhstan is an ideal location for solar power plants.

The south basks in 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, the government estimates.

Solar energy is already being used in Almaty, South Kazakhstan, and Zhambyl oblasts. During the first 9 months of 2014, solar power plants’ output reached 1.7m kWh.

“Two years ago they built a solar power plant in our district,” Alma Atabayeva, a woman from Otar village in Kordai District, Zhambyl Oblast, told Central Asia Online. “Most important, it provides jobs – my cousin, who was unable to find work for a long time, works there.”

Building renewable energy facilities between 2011 and 2014 provided about 13,000 jobs, and 6,500 workers are operating the completed facilities right now, according to the Kazakhstan Electricity Association. The majority of jobs go to local residents.

The KazEcoWatt Co. sponsored the construction of the Zhambyl solar power plant, which cost 200m KZT (US $1.1m). In the first stage [of construction], the plant produced enough electricity to power the 200 nearest homes. But the station’s output will increase to 7MW in the coming years, KazEcoWatt says.

In February, the German company ecap Solutions began building a 50MW solar power plant in Zhambyl Oblast. The facility is expected to begin operation in mid-2015. The company plans to build 5 more solar power plants in the oblast between 2015 and 2017.

Meanwhile, the Astana Solar factory has begun producing photovoltaic modules.

“Polycrystalline silicon for the modules is mined in Almaty Oblast,” Astana Solar Deputy Director Jarkyn Jangaziyev said. “Photoelectric panels are made from [the silicon] in Ust-Kamenogorsk. We then assemble the modules.”

A wind power plant is being built in Shu District, Zhambyl Oblast, which will cost US $550m (99.6 billion KZT). Planning and preliminary construction began in September, and the facility is expected to begin working in 2016.

Small hydropower stations are the unquestioned leaders in electricity output. In the first three quarters of 2014, they produced 334m kWh in Kazakhstan.

Energy of the future

The new stage in the development of alternative energy started in 2013 with the passage of two long-term policies: the strategy for transitioning to a green economy and a 2013-2020 plan to develop alternative and renewable energy sources.

During the first nine months of 2014, renewable energy facilities produced 346m kWh of electricity, which represents only 0.5% of Kazakhstan’s total output, according to the Energy Ministry.

By 2020, Kazakhstan is planning to have 106 renewable energy facilities capable of generating 3,055MW in operation, according to the 2013-2020 plan. By that time, renewable energy facilities will be producing 3% of the country’s electricity, officials predict.