By TBY | Kazakhstan | Jun 21, 2015
While Kazakhstan has ready access to fossil fuels that it uses for power generation, a series of reforms are ensuring that energy generation capitalizes on the country's more sustainable sources such as wind and solar energy.
Reducing the country’s dependence on hydrocarbons, and reducing their detrimental impact on the environment is at the core of Kazakhstan’s transition to a “green” economy. At the moment, 85.5% of Kazakhstan’s electricity comes from coal-fired plants and 8.7% from hydroelectric sources. The coal-fired plants are located in northern coal producing regions, and the hydroelectric facilities are located primarily along the Irtysh River, which also lies to the north. Meanwhile, regions to the south are characterized by a lack of energy resources, and consequently electricity needs must be met in part through energy imports from Kyrgyzstan.
The country has recently adopted the “Energy Efficiency 2020″ program, which aims to start reducing energy use by 10% every year by the end of 2015. This strategy will be implemented through 22 legal acts and 3,000 energy standards have been approved to promote the cause. The new measures include energy efficiency classifications for buildings and household appliances. Special emphasis is being placed on the industrial sector, which consumes more than 50% of the country’s energy resources. More than 2,000 industrial businesses will have to undergo energy audits by July 2015. In addition to that, the construction of three energy centers in the cities of Astana, Almaty, and Aktobe is currently underway. The main aim of the centers is to create a platform for the demonstration and promotion of energy-saving and energy-efficient approaches, technologies, and materials.
Starting from 2013 the country has introduced a new feed-in tariff law to support the use of renewables. In that regard, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has supported the Kazakhstan Government to develop various aspects of the new legislation, beginning with the model for determining the feed-in tariffs.
Three wind power plants will be established in the Almaty region from 2014 to 2018. The country currently has a cumulative photovoltaic installed capacity of less than 1 MWp, and wind capacity is less than 3 MW, in spite of ideal conditions for both forms of alternative energy. Kazakhstan is rich in wind resources—about 50% of Kazakhstan’s territory has average wind speeds of 4-5 m/sec at a height of 30m. These conditions provide the basis for estimates that the wind potential of Kazakhstan is around 1,820 billion KW/h per year, and the possibilities for generation are spread over most of the country. Windy sites are mostly located in the Caspian Sea, in Atyrau and Mangistau, and in central and southern parts of Kazakhstan. A country wide-wind atlas is available. With a density of wind capacity of about 10 MW/sqkm, there is the potential to install thousands MW of wind farms in Kazakhstan.
Knowledge transfer remains a priority for Kazakhstan, especially in the field of renewables. The government’s representative are currently discussing aspects of cooperation with international companies—with notable firms coming from Qatar, the US, France, and the Netherlands—that can support Kazakhstan as it implements innovative solutions.
A catalyst in this greening process is the impending hosting of Expo 2017 on the theme of “Future Energy.” Expo 2017, focused on the theme of “Future Energy,” will push Kazakhstan down this green path. The international exhibition that will take place in Astana aims to build international awareness about the energy and environmental challenges that face not only Kazakhstan, but also the entire CIS region. This event will also attract some of the best expertise available in the world on subjects such as energy saving technologies and alternative energy solutions, including solar and wind power.