Despite speaking of integration, Belarusian authorities have made great efforts to reduce the dependence onRussiaon the most important questions. One of the critical factors for the functioning of the modern state is the stability of its energy system, which inBelaruscan be achieved through modernization, rational use of the energy, diversification of energy sources and the use of local fuels that are economically viable. Earlier,Moscowhas repeatedly used the energy blackmail attempting to achieve political goals or to promote business interests of oligarchic groups close to the Kremlin. Thus, the constant threat of conflict withRussiamakes Belarusian authorities pay close attention to the energy sector.
In the face of external pressure the stability of energy system is a prerequisite for survival of the existing political regime. This is the rare case when the country’s national interests coincide with the interests of the powerful clan.
The advantage of the existing national grid is the fact thatBelarushas a developed infrastructure for both the generation of electricity and its transportation to consumers. In addition, it should be noted thatBelarusis the only CIS country that is thoroughly and actively carrying out work to modernize its energy sector.
Belarusian authorities are making considerable efforts to ensure the sustainability of the national energy system (energy security). These efforts can be roughly divided into four groups:
• Modernization and development;
• Energy saving;
• Diversification of energy supply sources;
• Involving all available energy sources (local and alternative).
The basic document of Belarusian energy system is The Concept of Energy Security ofBelarus. At the same time different State complex programs, Republican programs and targeted programs are developed as well. It is necessary to admit, that the text of the Concept of Energy Security wasn’t made public.
Modernization of existing energy system involves the introduction of new and more efficient equipment at existing facilities as well as construction of new power generating facilities: hydro-power plants, Zelva condenser power plant and nuclear power plant. So, Belarusian authorities are mostly working on the modernization.
The energy system, inherited from the Soviet, in many respects does not meet modern requirements. There is a high proportion (estimates vary up to 2 / 3) of wear-out of power-generating facilities. On the other hand, the potential efficiency gain at the expense of modernization is huge: the efficiency of the national energy system of our country is 2-3 times lower than one of leading Western countries andJapan.
Belarusian authorities make serious efforts to develop this sphere. So, in 2010, investment in fixed assets exceeded $ 1 billion, this year the investment growth of 5-6% in comparison with the previous year is scheduled. These measures will help to reduce the expenses for electric and thermal energy. The previous year the rate of reduction of the energy consumption was not only fulfilled but even exceeded and was about 285.6 thousand tons of conventional fuel (hereinafter referred to as TCF), when the reduction by 275 thousand TCF was scheduled.
Also the Republican program for converting boilers into CHPs in 2007-2010 was finished last year. And many of CHPs started to use local fuels.
During the period of the current Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) 32 innovative projects are planned to be implemented under the State program of development of Belarusian power grid organizations of the Ministry of Energy ofBelarus. Already this year, the construction of Grodno hydroelectric power station of capacity of 17 MW, the modernization of Minsk CHP-5 with the introduction of combined cycle plant of 400 MW, reconstruction of Minsk CHP-2 with the introduction of two combined cycle power plants for 32.5 MW, the launch of Rechytsa CHP of 4.2 MW capacity, modernization of Bereza power plant with the installation of gas turbines and power increase power by 65 MW is planned to be completed.
The increase in power generation sources by 799 MW will be reached by implementing innovative programs in 2016. The use of advanced technology will provide savings of energy resources in the amount of over 1.2 million TCF in relation to the level of 2010. As the result the country should completely refuse from electricity imports. High-efficiency coal-fired power units of Zelva IES, combined-cycle power units of Lukolm and Bereza power plants, Minsk CHP-5, as well as nuclear power plant will not only partially replace inefficient generating equipment, but will participate in covering planned growth of electricity consumption in Belarus, which will occur according to GDP growth.
Particular attention is paid to the construction of nuclear power plant. It should be noted that the argues about the construction of nuclear power plants are quite politicized:Lithuaniais trying to block the construction of the plant because of possible «significant harm». At the same time the senior officials of the neighboring state are mispresenting the facts. Thus, Foreign Minister A. Ažubalis said that questions ofLithuaniaabout the impact of nuclear power plant on the environment remain unanswered. Meanwhile, in March2010 inVilna, and in June2010 inMinskthe seminars, attended by experts and representatives of relevant departments of both states, were held. The questions of Lithuanian partners were given satisfactory answers to both at the seminars and later in writing. So far, there were no reasoned objections to the construction of Belarusian nuclear power plant.
It is also interesting that at the initial stage of project of NPP development there was an attempt to organize Belarusian antiatomic movement with the help of foreign financial support.
The Russian high-security project of generation «three plus» AES-2006, approved by the European Union, has been selected for the construction of Belarusian nuclear power plant. The whole cycle of works is carried out under supervision and with the consulting support of the IAEA.
According to the Belarusian authorities the nuclear power plant allows to solve a number of strategic problems:
The demand for imported energy supplies will reduce by almost 25%;
The use of natural gas as energy source will reduce by 4.5 billion m3 of gas per year;
The inclusion of nuclear fuel in the energy balance of the Republic will give the opportunity to create a guaranteed supply of fuel for power generating set for a long time (10 or more years);
The construction of a nuclear plant inBelarusis a way to diversify the power suppliers and fuels in the energy balance of the country. At the moment at present almost all energy is imported from one country -Russia. The inclusion of nuclear fuel in the energy balance will significantly increase the reliability of energy system of the state. The main raw material to produce fuel for nuclear power plant is uranium ore. Today, uranium mining is developed inCanada,South Africa,USA,Namibia,Australia,France,Gabon,Russia,Kazakhstanand other countries. At the same timeArgentina,Brazil,Belgium,IndiaandPortugalare among the largest uranium producers. Thus, there is a possibility to purchase uranium in different countries and to diversify nuclear fuel suppliers.
NPP will provide decrease of cost of electricity generated in the whole national energy system for at least 13%.
It should be noted that under the project of the Concept of Energy Security ofBelarus, three modern coal-fired power stations of capacity about 800-850 MW inBrest,GrodnoandGomelregions are planned to be build. At the moment the construction of only one Zelva IES of comparable capacity is being discussed. It is not clear whether it means the rejection of the construction of similar facilities in two other regions.
The decommissioning of uneconomic and obsolete equipment with an efficiency of less than 39% is planned to be completed by 2015.
2. Energy saving.
Along with the development of new spheres of energy (nuclear power, coal technology, the use of new fuels and alternative energy sources), the attention is paid to both energy saving measures and more efficient use of energy resources in all sectors of the economy.
The main documents that determine the priorities of state policy on energy saving, taking into account the available energy saving potential, are five-year National Energy Saving Programs, approved by the Government of theRepublicofBelarus.
Currently, the National Energy Saving Program for 2011-2015, approved by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus on 24 December 2010 № 1882, is implemented.
In addition, the annual energy saving programs in all regions, districts and the capital are developed and approved.
So, this year only in theMogilevregion it is planned to spend 323 billion Belarusian rubles for energy saving measures, which will provide savings of energy resources of more than 180 thousand TCF.
During 2010 over 1.1 billion U.S. dollars was used to finance the activities of sectoral and regional energy efficiency programs and a number of energy saving measures of the republican value.
In the period between 2011-2015 years more than 8.6 billion U.S. dollars will be spent on energy saving and use of domestic energy resources. In industry, the main attention will be paid to the introduction of energy saving technologies. The replacement of industrial equipment for heating and heat treatment of metal, providing 3-4 times efficiency increase in comparison with the existing one, will be a complete before 2015.
Particular attention is paid to municipal and urban development sector: the replacement of worn-out heating systems is to be done, and where it is impractical — the local heating systems should be launched. Energy efficient houses will be at least 60% of all built inBelarusin 2015.
A whole system of administrative and economic measures, including the introduction of higher rates of payment for electricity and heat, if a legal person exceed the volume set by the Government, will encourage energy saving and energy efficiency. At the same time the limits on the consumption of electricity and heat for the various business entities will be set. It is planned to hold widespread energy audits.
Belarusian authorities plan to lower the energy intensity of GDP by 60% by 2020 compared with 2005. If GDP growth for 2020 is expected to increase by 320% (3.2 times) in comparison with 2005, the increase in power consumption is expected to be no more than 1.3 times.
The main attention in the sphere of energy saving in 2011 – 2015 will be paid to:
• The reduction of energy losses during transport;
• The improving energy efficiency in industry, construction, agriculture and public sector;
• The reduction of energy consumption in housing and communal services;
• The development of economic interest of energy producers and consumers in increasing the efficiency of its use;
• The creation of new energy technologies, equipment and materials, allowing to refuse from energy import;
• The work to promote energy saving and rational use of energy resources.
3. Diversification of energy sources.
The Government’s program for 2011-2015 envisages thatBelaruswill diversify the supply of oil, natural gas, electricity and coal, will reduce the share of the dominant supplier of energy (i.e.Russia) in the gross consumption of energy resources to 70-71% by 2015.
The mechanisms for achieving the stated objectives are the construction of oil and gas terminals, creation of oil and gas pipelines in the neighboring states, the increase in oil production abroad.
The current share of gas in the fuel balance of the country provides sufficient technical, economic and environmental performance of heat and electrical energy, but is risky in terms of energy security. In this regard, Belarusian authorities plan a phased reduction of the share of gas in energy mix from 80% to 50% percent.
The implementation of the plans of launching the coal fired generating capacity and then even the nuclear power plant, described above, will help to diversify energy suppliers. Thus, the involvement of coal in the amount of 3 million TCF in energy balance is also looked forward to.
4. Local and alternative energy sources
It is expected that by 2015 30% of the gross consumption of energy resources will be provided from local sources. It is necessary to provide the maximum possible and economically expedient involvement of local fuels, waste energy and renewable energy sources in energy balance to achieve the stated performance.
The building and upgrading of 221 power source on local fuels, building 102 biogas systems, construction and rehabilitation of 35 hydroelectric power stations, construction of wind farms, the introduction of 184 solar installations, 166 heat pumps for low-grade waste energy and geothermal energy with total capacity of about 680 MW is planned to be completed by 2015.
The use of local fuels will be increased to 6,7-6,9 million TCF (including the extraction of brown coal for at least 200 thousand TCF), and with the use of local natural gas, fuel oil, secondary heat resources – to about 9,7-9,9 million TCF. So, this year inMogilevregion the share of local fuels in the balance of the boiler and heating fuel has been 22.2% for the whole region and 46.7% for housing organizations.
For further increase of the share of local fuels the main attention will be paid to increasing the use of peat and wood. Wood, logging residues and wood waste are the main source of local fuel resources. Therefore, the level of their harvesting is planned to be increased to 11.6 million m3 (3.1 million TCF) by the end of 2012. Department of Energy approved a program of development of peat briquette factories, that will provide 1.2 million TCF of peat.
Another potentially promising source of renewable energy is straw. At the moment millions of tons of this free fuel are rotting in the fields.
Attention is given to technology of burning of household and fuel waste: it is planned to develop efficient technologies for utilization of high-potential secondary energy sources.
Belarusian authorities intend to restore the number of abandoned hydro power units and build new small ones in order their power is not less than 250 MW by 2020.
It should be emphasized that the Belarusian authorities hope to abandon the import of technologies in the sphere of renewable energy, switching to the use of domestic ones: Belarusian scientists have enough scientific research, which in the next few years may become national technologies or equipment and be launched in mass production, if there is enough funds for that.
One of the stimuli in the implementation of renewable energy is the tariff policy of the authorities: the tariffs for electricity from renewable energy sources are equal with the European ones, which should stimulate interest of investors in this area.
However, it should be noted that nowadays there are only low-power or single renewable energy sources like biogas power units, wind turbines, which do not make a tangible contribution to the energy balance. In fact, there are no serious renewable energy units inBelarusbefore launching the hydropower plant. At the moment only 3.5% of total energy in the country is produced with the use of renewed energy sources (including wood).
The changes planned by Belarusian authorities in the electricity sphere will improve the efficiency of both the energy sector and the national economy in whole by reducing the cost of electricity, increasing its stability and involving the local energy sources.
On the other hand, the current financial problems may complicate the implementation of the plans, announced by the government.
It is possible that the privatization and allowing private and foreign entities to work in the energy sphere will be chosen a way of coping with the financial crisis by Belarusian authorities. The energy sector ofBelarusis quite modern in comparison with the ones in CIS countries, which increases its attractiveness to potential investors.
In general, the energy policy of Belarusian authority is quite adequate, balanced and consistent. Authorities demonstrate firmness to achieve the stated objectives in the development and optimization of energy and rational use of electricity and heat. Much has been done to improve the efficiency of using energy, which allows to increase GDP without increasing energy consumption.