Russian Wind Energy Opportunity

Russian flag showing wind turbines and windfarm in sihoulette
Russia flag wind farm at sunset, sustainable development, renewable energy Wind Turbines

The Nation That’s Poised to Become a Global Powerhouse 

Russia is the largest county by land in the world. It is made up of 17 million square kilometres and has 38000 kilometres of coastline. This makes Russia a country which has great potential to utilise wind power, and if utilised properly would lead to it being the largest producer of wind energy in the world. However, Russia currently only has an installed capacity of between 11-16 megawatts of wind power, and unless the Russian government encourages more investment into the wind energy sector it could be left an unused resource. Russia is also currently the world’s largest exporter of fossil fuels as of 2020 and  represents the biggest global opportunity for the transition to renewable energy sector. 

Russia’s Current Wind Energy Status

Except for a few wind turbines in the Volga region, Russia does not have much wind energy infrastructure, making the development of this renewable energy resource a challenge for the country. However, it has been suggested that Russia could eventually become a global wind energy superpower if it invested significant sums of money into the development of wind power. There are several factors that can be used to increase Russia’s wind energy output. The first of these is the possibility of wind farms being constructed on state and private land, something which is currently not possible due to the lack of government support. The current government energy strategy has focused heavily on the export of hydrocarbons and Russia’s energy transition would be the most ambitious on a global scale. The vast majority of Russian gas exports are to its neighbouring states such the EU and China. As energy exports contribute to over 50% of Russia’s state revenues, the Russian government considers decreasing foreign energy demand as a clear and perceived threat to its economic security.

Russia’s potential to become a wind energy powerhouse

The Russian Government has acknowledged the advantages that wind energy can offer to the Russian economy. President Vladimir Putin said in November 2017 that wind power could “become a resource for the country’s economic development,” as he spoke at the opening of a new wind power plant in Russia’s Arkhangelsk region. In its initial stage with 50 generators it will be producing around 150-200 MW which will meet the needs of 100,000 homes. This is being constructed at a cost of 16 billion roubles which unusually is double the cost for wind turbines constructed in the West. As well as being favourable for the Russian economy, wind energy can also be used as a means of cutting emissions in Russia. Renewables production is currently around 3.6% with hydropower and nuclear energy being the other forms of carbon free generation.  In December 2017 the European Commission published an analysis of how Europe could reduce emissions and adapt to a changing climate, with wind power considered to be a vital part of the European energy future. In 2018, Russia provided Europe with 41% of its natural gas and until 2014 Europe was Russia’s Gazprom biggest market however with the mammoth $400 billion natural gas deal with China this presents a challenge for Russia to meet its climate goals.

How the Russian government could encourage investment into its wind energy sector

Unlike the Chinese government, who actively encourage investment into renewable energy, the Russian government has been comparatively slow in promoting the usage of wind energy. The total wind energy potential in Russia is estimated to be up to 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, which would be enough to power up to a third of Russia’s electricity consumption. There lacks an ambitious renewable energy programme due to lack of renewable energy investment by the energy majors.The reasons for this are quite simple. The Russian government doesn’t really have a direct role in setting wind power tariffs. Wind energy is generated by electricity companies who negotiate the necessary energy prices on their customers’ behalf. Decarbonization efforts have also been hampered by the incumbent energy majors as they seek to maximise remaining returns on their investments. With a country that sits the worlds the largest natural resources for natural gas and thermal coal, it is naturally understandable a reluctance to focus on escalating renewable energy investment.

How Russia Could Become a World Leader in Wind Energy

The Russian Wind Energy Association estimates that the country could develop a capacity of up to 100 gigawatts of wind power by 2030, and that if Russia utilised this resource to its fullest potential it could contribute significantly to global warming targets. Currently, Russia has around 350,000 square kilometres of land which is suitable for wind turbines, of which only around 15,000 square kilometres has been developed for wind energy, so there is a great potential for growth. One of the main reasons why Russia has a major potential for wind power development is that wind is abundant in the country. There are numerous areas in the Russian Federation that  have been highlighted as superb areas for potential wind generation; as in the Murmansk, Kalingrad, Krasnodar, Volgograd and Omsk regions. According to 2017 report by IRENA, the international renewable energy agency company, REMap 2030: Renewable Energy Prospects for the Russian Federation, Russia has the potential to increase the projected share of renewables from 4.9% to 11.3% of total final energy consumption by 2030. A wind generator requires
average annual wind speeds of 6.5m/s or greater at 80m in height to be considered commercially viable. A single land based wind power plant has the capacity of 2.5 MW with offshore wind with due to larger turbines and higher speeds at sea has the potential generational capacity of 3.6 MW. The RES capacity market may require a government subsidy or alternative large tax breaks to encourage the domestic growth of renewable energy technology and equipment.

What needs to happen for Russia to become a global powerhouse

As previously mentioned, Russia is a very big country, and as such there are many areas that are not suited to use wind power. The majority of Russia’s territory is mountainous and also very hilly, making wind turbines less efficient in these locations. Therefore, the Russian government has a huge task ahead of it if they want to make use of Russia’s vast potential for wind power. The problem is that Russia has been trying to grow the industry for a number of years now, but has failed to attract the necessary investment to build the necessary capacity. Therefore, the Russian government needs to show leadership on this issue and be willing to spend a lot of money on developing the wind energy industry in Russia. Russia’s renewable energy sector is also largely unregistered, meaning that it lacks the regulatory support required to set up a wind farm and draw in private investment. The lack of registration has meant that many companies have been unable to invest in the industry. Hydroelectric power provides 51.5GW of Russia’s current renewable energy source which represents approximately 35% of the county’s electricity generation fuel mix. Traditional power sources still dominate the energy landscape and renewable energy transition may prove to be a tenuous one without a clearly mandated climate policy and strong government measures to support the renewables sector.

Conclusion

Wind power will play a critical role in the future of the European energy market and could lead to the development of a low-carbon energy industry in the region. Wind energy has been on the rise in Europe in recent years, and it is expected to continue to grow in the future due to lower turbine prices and higher demand. European leaders are looking to increase the share of renewable energy in the energy mix to meet the climate targets set by the Paris Agreement, and an increased reliance on wind energy is likely to play a key role in reaching these targets. The current Russian renewable energy capacity reliance on hydropower and nuclear power must be diversified to include wind power capacity.

Why Russia Should Invest in Wind Energy has huge potential for Russia. It is an untapped resource and although many other European countries have invested millions of dollars into wind power, Russia has yet to do so. In fact, Russia is in danger of falling behind the rest of Europe in regard to developing wind energy, as Germany in particular is now beginning to invest more into wind power than Russia. For example, in 2015, Germany invested €4.5bn into wind power, whilst in contrast, Russia invested less than €0.5bn. If Russia wants to become a world power in terms of generating wind energy, it needs to invest more into the sector as the global economy transitions to net Zero by 2050