The largest exporter of oil and natural gas in the world, Russia, seems to be making more and more overtures towards solar energy in recent times. One of the country’s oil billionaires, Viktor Vekselberg, has been epitomizing that “slow” embrace with the Hevel Solor venture — which is a collaboration between Vekselberg’s company Renova and OAO Rusnano.
Altogether, Hevel Solar is expected to result in the construction of 22.5 billion rubles ($450 million) worth of solar projects through the year 2018. One of the main drivers behind the push is that “diversifying power generation will benefit the country.” (A very sensible position in my opinion. Broadening sources of energy reliance certainly does increase resiliency.)
“You don’t have to eat potatoes all the time,”as Hevel CEO Igor Akhmerov put it during a recent interview with Bloomberg. “You can have some salad as well.”
While initial thoughts probably bring to mind a fossil fuel rich country that is quite cold during the winter, where solar energy perhaps wouldn’t get much support, it should be remembered that the Russian Federation encompasses a huge area of land. The region near the southern border with Kazakhstan, for example, is fairly well suited to solar energy development. Hence the region being chosen as the site of early Hevel projects (worth noting, the initiative’s second solar project in the Orenburg region was recently finished).
Considering that remote regions often rely on inefficient and expensive diesel generators, solar makes for an especially good choice in such regions.
“The plan isn’t to rival oil and gas, rather to deploy solar where it’s most useful.”
“You can’t compete with 70 years of planning and infrastructure,” Akhmerov stated. “You try to find a way to leapfrog problems to the front.”
A pretty sensible, good strategy to my mind. One that is being put to good use in many other regions as well, particularly those that were never home to well developed electricity grids.
A final note: Hevel actually operates its own solar-panel factory in Novocherboksarsk, which has allowed it to deal (fairly effectively) with the decline of the ruble (with regards to international value) over recent times. As Russia can largely provide for its own needs with regard to food, energy, etc., I’m not at all convinced by the rhetoric that has accompanied the application of sanctions, concerning the viability of the country’s economy. And I’m expecting the solar sector in the country to continue growing slowly over the coming years, regardless of sanctions.
Image Credit: Hevel Solar
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