Time for Energy of the Future Is Now

In four years, Astana will host the international exhibition EXPO 2017, which is a symbol of industrialisation and represents a platform from which to demonstrate technical and technological achievements. The theme offered by our country, “Future Energy,” was inspired by the search for qualitative changes in the energy sector, including the development of alternative sources of energy and new ways of its transportation.

Kazakhstan has large reserves of energy resources, but the share of renewable energy in the overall energy balance of the country is less than one percent. According to experts, wind energy is the most promising direction for the development of renewable energy sources in Kazakhstan. The country is ranked first in the world in terms of potential of wind energy resources per capita. The average wind speed in Jungar Gates, Shelek Corridor and the cities of Astana, Arkalyk and Fort Shevchenko is seven to nine metres per second.

In 2009, Parliament adopted the law “On supporting the use of renewable energy sources.” It identifies the objectives, forms and directions of state support for their use. The main purpose of the law, the incorporation of clean energy and environmental protection measures into the country’s energy sector, remains unfulfilled. Nevertheless, after the adoption of this law and a number of legal acts containing measures aimed at promoting and developing the use of renewable energy, domestic and foreign investors showed increased interest in the sector. A number of projects in the field of renewable energy have now been launched.

Last year, Parliament adopted a new law, “On energy saving and energy efficiency.” This law was developed to improve energy efficiency; its comprehensive plan focuses primarily on companies in the industrial sector and provides a set of regulatory, promotional and administrative measures. In particular, it proposes to provide a mechanism for preventing the commissioning of new facilities that will consume energy but are not equipped with metering devices and automated systems of heat control.

In 2012, the government approved rules of implementation for environmental (“green”) investments. Today, the total sum of investments in the development of renewable energy projects in Kazakhstan is more than 107 billion tenge.

The energy balance in the world is changing rapidly: the development of alternative fuels and renewable energy and the transfer from coal to gas confirm this. And here I would like to note the potential for transferring energy and industry in Kazakhstan to methane that has been proven by the international experience of its use for power generation in coal mines.

Objective prerequisites for organising commercial production of methane from coal beds in the Karaganda basin are positive world experience, the availability of technologies for efficient extraction of methane, and its presence in large amounts in the depths of not only Karaganda basin, but other coal deposits of Kazakhstan. Methane from the coal fields can be effectively used by powerful thermal stations, Karaganda Metallurgical Plant, Pavlodar Aluminum and the Aksu Ferroalloy complexes.

The use of methane in industry and energy, gasification of private sector, transfer of vehicles to gas: all this will have a huge economic, environmental and social impact. The organisation of coal-gas production in the Karaganda basin alone will solve another pressing problem: the Environmental Ministry annually collects about 50 billion tenge for emissions into the atmosphere.

I think the government should develop a national branch programme for the production of methane from coal beds. To increase the investment attractiveness of the project, it is expedient to make appropriate changes in existing legislation on the reduction or abolition of customs duties on import of equipment and materials for the production of coal bed methane, as well as investment incentives for income tax for a period of return on investment.

Moreover, organising the production and utilisation of methane from coal deposits will also contribute to Kazakhstan’s commitments to the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The president, in his address in December 2012, highlighted the fact that as a major player in the hydrocarbons market, we need to develop alternative forms of energy production and actively introduce technologies that use solar and wind energy.

In accordance with the Strategic Development Plan through 2020, the share of alternative energy sources in total energy consumption is to reach 1.5 percent by 2015 and more than three percent by 2020. But it should be noted that, according to a new strategic document, by 2050 alternative and renewable energy should account for at least half of the total energy consumed in the country. Therefore, many of the adopted renewable energy programmes must be adjusted in accordance with the objectives set by the president in Strategy Kazakhstan-2050.

Today, the country is actively preparing for EXPO 2017. Leading experts from foreign countries in the field of modern energy have been invited. Overall, despite some difficulties, renewable energy in our country has begun to be developed. The necessary legislation and government programmes have already been implemented. EXPO 2017 is a powerful incentive and a chance for a sharp turn toward a green economy.

To positively represent ourselves at the global event, the government today should actively promote the adoption and implementation of the project for the extraction of methane gas, which can become one of the breakthrough projects under the theme of the exhibition and which can have a positive impact on the economic development of Kazakhstan.

The author is a member of the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan.