BRIGHT FUTURE

Kazakhstan 2018 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Taylan Karamanli, CEO of KB Enterprises, on solar's potential in Kazakhstan and leading innovation in renewable energies.

Taylan Karamanli
BIOGRAPHY
Taylan Karamanli was born in 1968 in Istanbul, Turkey. He studied business management with a concentration in marketing at Bosphorus University. While studying, he started working in the shipping industry, and in 1994 he started to work on Turkish American Trade Lane. In 1995, he moved to the US and worked for multinational companies covering Indian, Chinese, and European trade lanes. Later, he moved back to Istanbul and managed a multinational freight forwarding company. He then moved to Astana and, in 2013, together with his wife, established KB Enterprises to start building solar and wind power plants.

What was the vision behind setting up KB Enterprises in Kazakhstan, and how has the company evolved over the years?

KB Enterprises was established in 2013 for the purpose of establishing a solar power plant in Kazakhstan. We started to develop our project with Siemens and had a combined team from Turkey, France, and Germany. Over time, however, Siemens pulled out of the solar industry as a full engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) company, since it only wanted to focus on providing equipment. We needed bankability in terms of EPC and, thus, had a tender process. We signed an EPC contract with Sumec Hardware from Nanjing, China, in June 2017. The solar power plant will have a capacity of 120MW and is located in Kabanbay Batyr village in the Tselinogorad region of Akmola Province. In terms of cost, the project is expected to be around USD165 million and financing will be handled within a consortium of several financial institutions.

What is the timeline for the project?

In May 2016, we had a groundbreaking ceremony together with the Dutch ambassador to Kazakhstan as well as the regional and provincial governors for the official project launch. The paperwork was fairly extensive, and the power purchase agreement (PPA) was completed in September 2016 and the contract finalized in October. Following the signing of the EPC agreement with Sumec in June 2017, we signed an agreement with Hill International Inc. as our project management company in the same month. Immediately after that, we started designing our solar power plant in coordination with Almaty Proekt Energo Story, Hill International, and Sumec Hardware. We got state approval in December 2017; thus, construction will be pushed to spring 2018. I am confident we are on course to finalize the project by March 2019.

How important is Kazakhstan for KB Enterprise's global operations?

Kazakhstan is our landmark project. And, we would like to create a sustainable economy through solar energy by integrating our projects into green houses and conventional agriculture in Kazakhstan. We are working closely with universities in the Netherlands on these initiatives. In addition, together with the Ministry of Economy of the Netherlands and Kazakhstani Embassy to the Netherlands, we are working on bringing state-of-the-art technologies to Kazakhstan by educating Kazakhstani students to train others in Kazakhstan. We are closely monitoring technological trends and applying our own experiences to remain up to date with our solutions. For example, on the R&D side of solar energy, batteries are more important than panel technology, and this is our main focus and that of the industry overall. Likewise, one of our partners is producing dual-sided panels that capture light on both sides, which is another demonstration of our commitment to bringing innovation to the Kazakhstani market.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

I have great hopes for the solar and other renewable energies here, and this is absolutely reflected in our investment strategy here. The Expo 2017 focus on future energy helped raise general awareness of the government's priorities to develop renewable energy locally. And we are proud that we were the only company under the Dutch Pavilion at Expo 2017 to represent the renewable industry in Kazakhstan to the world. We are pioneers in this huge market. Kazakhstan measures 2.5 million sqkm and solar is one of the only solutions for our immediate needs. We have three solar projects that we will launch in 2018. We are also exploring opportunities in wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydroelectric energy. The projects we are working on for biomass in Zhambyl and Shymkent are huge and could require about 20,000ha of land. We look forward to completing our landmark solar project and are looking ahead to brighter opportunities in Kazakhstan.