Solar energy in Russia might be on the verge of a major expansion, thanks to a government support program for renewable energy sources, industry experts told The Moscow Times.
Russia, the world’s fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has historically relied on its vast oil and gas reserves to bolster its economy. But the Kremlin has started to pay attention to the global climate emergency, and ahead of this week’s pivotal COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, President Vladimir Putin pledged that Russia would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
The second stage of a trillion-ruble ($14.2 billion) support program for renewable sources of energy started in September with the allocation of benefits for projects due to come online in 2025-2035, many of them in the solar industry.
“We have been hearing for a long time that renewable energy is not the right path for Russia, considering our fossil fuel resources and the price of renewable generation, but now this myth has been completely debunked” said Alexei Zhiharev, director of the Russia Renewable Energy Development Association (RREDA).
Solar energy is the renewable most ripe for development, RREDA said, because technology has improved to cut the price of its generation in half to between 4,300 and 6,300 rubles ($62-$92) per megawatt-hour, depending on geography and local competition.
Russia’s typically low temperatures and few sunny days don’t mean it can’t produce solar energy on a significant scale, said Anton Usachev, deputy director of Russia’s largest solar panels company HEVEL.
“It is a very outdated myth that Russia doesn’t have enough sunlight,” Usachev said. “People ask us, ‘Why are you building a solar station in the Ural mountains? There is no sun there!’ Well, our data tells us differently.”
Moscow-based renewables company Unigreen Energy, which has received a government guarantee that it will be paid extra for the power it adds to local grids, said Russia has more than enough insolation — solar radiation hitting an object — to produce solar energy.
“Most Russian regions have high insolation — above 1,000 — the level required to generate energy,” the company said in a statement.
Both Unigreen and HEVEL experts said Russia’s many Arctic settlements could benefit from hybrid solar-diesel power stations that would cut costs and solve supply chain and shortage problems.
“Local authorities could now really cut down their expenses on diesel fuel. But most importantly — people get a 24/7 power supply,” Usachev said, pointing to a project HEVEL recently completed in the frozen Far Eastern Chukotka region.
Arctic cold actually helps preserve solar energy, he added, because solar panels lose less of their captured energy in cold weather. On a clear, sunny day, a …….