Murmansk officials weigh renewable energy legislation

ingressimage_russia-wind-sea-house3 Wind energy in Russia. (Photo: Nikolai Nikitin)

Officials in Murmansk are testing the waters on legislation that would spur the development of renewable energy – particularly on how that energy could be used to recharge electric vehicles.

While it’s still too early to expect a boom in electric car use on the Kola Peninsula, the focus on how to recharge the environmentally-friendly vehicles is sparking a wide ranging review of how Russian law can be amended to accommodate renewable energy.

Late last year the Murmansk administration signaled a commitment to electric cars by signing on to an agreement with Bellona to help foster e-car infrastructure on the road between Russia’s Arctic capital and Northern Scandinavia. The agreement, inked in November, envisions a number of rapid chargers for electric cars to help make e-car travel between the two countries more enticing.

At the same time, the Murmansk region has long been fertile territory for renewable energy development, particularly wind energy, which officials there say can ease the region’s dependence on polluting heavy fuel oils and diesel for heating.

At a gathering of Murmansk parliamentarians held on Monday, officials ticked off a number of large-scale wind energy projects that are expected to gain a foothold in the Arctic area, but which are stymied by legislative shortfalls at the federal and regional level.

At the meeting, Yevgeny Nikora, the Murmansk region’s deputy governor, pointed out his region’s staggering potential for wind energy, which he said could reach up tp 360 billion kilowatt hours of generation. This potential, he said, could be put to work electrifying some of the Arctic region’s more remote reaches, where diesel fuel is the only defense against the harsh elements.
As a consequence, Murmansk could siphon 240,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere annually – the equivalent of taking 47,059 cars off the road.

To that end, Enel Rossiya, a Russian wind energy firms, won the right to build a wind farm in the Murmansk region village of Teriberka, a far-flung settlement overlooking the Barents Sea. The wind farm, which will have 57 84-meter turbines, is expected to be up and running in 2021, and will have 201 megawatts of installed capacity.

Yet despite the warm reception many wind energy companies are getting in Russia’s far north, Bellona’s Andrei Zolotkov, who was at the Murmansk parliamentary meeting, pointed out that federal and regional legislation was lagging behind renewable development.

“We have a wide range of renewable energy sources in the region,” he told the gathering,.”A framework law would establish general principles of regulation, and it can be supplemented later, as necessary.”

Such legislation, said Zolotkov, could allow for monitoring how quickly certain renewable energy methods were developing. But he cautioned that the legislation should also remain adaptable, as renewable energy growth routinely outpaces the speed of lawmakers.

As testament to that, he noted data from last year showing how the output form wind energy could soon eclipse that produced by nuclear power.

Numerous other regions in Russia, like the southern Krasnodar region, as well as the Altai Republic in Asia, and the Siberia Republic of Yakutiya, have developed legislation for renewable energy sources.

But Nikora was hesitant about taking a legislative tack for Murmansk until more is known about the impact of renewable energy legislation in these other regions

“First, we need to determine the purpose of adjusting regional legislation –  what we plan to achieve. In addition, it is necessary to carefully study the experience of other regions and understand whether they have achieved their goals, or are moving toward the goals for which the regional legislation was introduced,” Nikora said.

Anna Kireeva

anna@bellona.ru