In Europe, could the energy power balance be about to change?

The German wind turbine manufacturer FWT Production GMBH have won the contract to supply turbines to what will the largest Russian wind farm. Photo credit: FWT FWT Production GMBH

By Anders Lorenzen

In recent years the tension between Europe and Russia has continued to increase. This culminated with the Ukraine civil war and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Many commentators have put much of this conflict down to an energy war being played out between Russia and Europe. A number of European countries rely heavily on Russian gas supplies. And those countries have been hesitant to support tough sanctions against Russia for fear that their energy supplies would be at risk.
With the general transition towards clean energy, could this be about to change?
Russia reluctantly supported the Paris Agreement on climate change, agreed in Paris last year. But the direction of energy policy in the country appears to be more fossil fuel extraction, with hardly any renewables in the pipeline. If you discount hydropower, Russia’s installed renewable energy infrastructure projects are so tiny that they are hardly worth mentioning. This is despite the fact that Russia, which has the largest land area on Earth, has also some of the best renewable energy potentials in the world.
But perhaps a new wind farm project in Russia could signal a policy change?
A (for Russia) huge wind farm project is now moving ahead. It is the first stage of the 51 megawatts (MW) Priyutnenskaya wind farm located in the South of Russia in the Republic of Kalmykia.  The project could also potentially change the energy balance in Europe. The Czech company Falkon Capital will be funding the project, and they’re being advised by the German arm of the international law firm, Bird & Bird. And a German company will provide the wind turbines, with FWT Production GmbH having been awarded the contract.
Once the planning process is completed, the first phase of the Priyutnenskaya wind project, the delivery and installation of 20 x 2.5 MW turbines, will commence. The delivery is scheduled for the end of 2016, and the wind farm should be operational in the first half of 2017.
FWT Production GmbH’s Henning Zint told A greener life, a greener world that they expect to be awarded the contracts for the remaining stages, and that this project will push the Russian wind market forward.
Germany is very ambitious in this wish to enter the Russian wind energy market.  In 2010 the German engineering giant, Siemens, announced that by 2015 it would have installed 1,250 MW of wind capacity in Russia. But at the end of 2015 the figure reached was only a meagre 15.4 MW.
Russia intends that by 2020 4.5% of its electricity demand should be supplied by renewable sources. Currently, the country is way behind that goal. But if they were to reach it, the Russian Wind Energy Association estimates that they would need to have 7,000 MW of wind energy installed.
It is too early to say if this project would signal the beginning of a renewable energy revolution in Russia. This is bearing in mind that fossil fuels would continue to be a cornerstone of their economy for decades before Russia’s vast clean energy potential could start to be tapped. At the same time, there could be a power shift around who holds the balance of power in Europe’s energy system, drastically changing geopolitics in the region.

Categories: Geopolitics, Russia

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