To hear those who attended Murmansk’s Business Week tell it, the winds of change are blowing in the Arctic and there’s an electric charge in the air.
That’s because 2019 will see the opening of the region’s first industrial wind farm, and the Arctic Electric Road Project – a joint undertaking between the Murmansk Regional Government and officials in Norway –– is on target to build an electric car charging infrastructure along the border highways between the two countries.
Murmansk officials are calling the two-pronged development approach the “energy of the future.”
“The energy future is, of course, important for the generations to come, but its up to the present generation to develop it,” Yevgeny Nikora, deputy governor of the Murmansk region, told a round table discussion in the city hosted by Bellona. “The Murmansk region, as a prime outpost in the Arctic, should be ahead of other regions in developing green technology.”
Along with Bellona, Murmansk’s Ministry of Energy and Housing participated in arranging the event, which took place under the umbrella of the Sevtek: Northern Fuel and Energy Complex-2018.
The Arctic Electric Road
To mark Russia’s Year of Ecology, as the Kremlin so named 2017, Bellona donated an electric car charger to the city of Murmansk, the region’s first. And it was this project that gave rise to the Arctic Electric Road, a memorandum of understanding among Bellona, Murmansk, and a Norwegian energy company called Varanger Kraft, to install chargers on the highway between Russia’s Arctic and Scandinavia.
Rune Rafaelsen, who is the Mayor of Kirkenes, a small town on the Russian-Norwegian border, told the countable his first trip by electric car to Murmansk had inspired him to take part in the project.
“In the summer I first arrived with Bellona on an electric car from to Murmansk from Kirkenes, I promised that by the end of the year we would build a fast charging station in Kirkenes,” he said. “I am pleased to announce that in mid-December we will open this station.”
It was Bellona’s persistent pressure, he said, that had gotten the once-stalled project off the ground. Next year, Varanger Kraft is slated to open another charger in Kirkenes, and yet another in the Northern Norwegian town of Vadsø.
He said he was grateful for the pressure from Bellona’s Murmansk office to follow through with the charger.
“It’s an example of how Russia can put pressure on Norway, forcing it to be more environmentally friendly,” he said.
Nikora likewise was grateful to the organization.
“I want to thank Bellona for taking on this burden and continuing to carry it,” he said. “We will continue to support this activity and the development of clean energy projects in our region.”
The idea of building an electric car charging infrastructure is catching further south in the Murmansk region as well. Vadim Ulyanov, Director General of the Murmansk Region Development Corporation, told the round table that more e-car charging stations are under negotiation. These, he said, would be build in concert with officials overseeing Russia’s vast federal filling station network with an eye toward positioning chargers on the roads between Murmansk and St Petersburg, 1,300 kilometers to the south.
The first stations, said Ulyanov, would appear in the villages of Zelenoborsky, Monchegorsk and Polyarnye Zori.
The industrial wind park
Last year, Enel Russia, a subsidiary of the Italian oil giant, announced a project to build a wind farm in the Murmansk region. According to the company’s CEO, Carlo Palashano Villamagna, much has been accomplished toward this in the past year.
Design and citing work has taken place, and public hearings have been held. Permits have been attained and questions of land acquisition have been resolved. As of now, he said, the wind farm will be commissioned in 2021, and construction itself will begin next year.
“When Bellona started working with renewable energy in Russia, nobody took the alternative energy seriously,” wrote Bellona president Hauge in a letter of welcome to the round table. “Today we are witnessing global changes: a legislative base has appeared in Russia, state subsidies, and in a region as rich in energy surpluses as Murmansk, there are now plans for a wind farm. I am confident that by joining efforts we will achieve success and together we will ensure a clean future for the Arctic.”
Hauge expressing Bellona’ gratitude to the Murmansk regional administration for their support and assistance in promoting electric car infrastructure, as well as to deputies of the regional parliament, who are crafting legislation, which will offer tax relief and other benefits to electric car owners in Northwest Russia.
“These are very difficult issues, but everything is possible if we combine the efforts of the business community, the legislative and executive authorities of the region, and Bellona, which has accumulated vast experience in this field,” Hauge wrote.