In the rocky hills of southern Siberia, five hydropower plants operated by Russia’s EN+ Group churn out green electricity at one-sixth of the cost of conventional fuel, tapping the Angara river that flows out of Lake Baikal to power half a dozen aluminium smelters along its banks. Already the world’s largest private hydropower company by capacity, EN+ is itching to ramp up output further. “We expect an increase in energy appetite of the region and we are prepared to satisfy it,” says Maxim Sokov, EN+ chief executive, citing new industrial projects in the area, including gold and copper mines and power-hungry processing plants, that should increase power demand. But stories like En+, which Mr Sokov says is finalising a modernisation programme to increase output and efficiency, are few and far between in Russia’s renewable energy industry, where the potential is great but the headwinds greater. Russia’s tiny use of renewables, at 3.6 per cent of total energy consumption, is a black spot in a global surge in the use of green technology, which accounted for more than 18.3 per cent of the world’s energy supply in 2014, according to the International Energy Agency. Fellow Bric nations China and Brazil boast usage of more than 25 and 45 per cent respectively. That gap is mainly due to Russia’s historical dependence on vast reserves of fossil fuels and the political clout of its state-run oil and gas industry. It has stymied efforts to spend the billions of dollars needed to invest in new technologies and build the infrastructure to connect renewable power producers to consumers in a country that accounts for one-eighth of the world’s land surface.
FT 7th May 2017 read more »