In 2005 an international seminar “Energy in Belarus : ways of development” took part in Minsk. The participants discussed the question that was not that urgent at that time but was gaining an interest — the construction of nuclear power station. The scientists of “The joint energy and nuclear research institute “Sosny” stand out for the construction of nuclear power stations in Belarus. The main argument for this is that in 2020 natural gas price can soar up to 100–120 dollars per 1 thousand cubic meters.
The reality left forecasts far behind.
From the 1st of January 2007 the Russian gas monopoly company “Gazprom” sells gas to Belarus at the price of 100 dollars. There is no doubt that Belarus in the next few years will pay for Russian gas the same price as Poland or Germany do (exclusive transport expenses). “Bearing in mind the fact that internationally Belarus ranks the 5 th in primary energy consumption (71.4 percent). The first four placed are distributed among such gas exporting countries as Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Qatar and Uzbekistan. Thus Belarus is heavily dependent on Russian fuel.”
CIS honored power engineer, member of European natural sciences academy Vsevolod Pekelis says: “This case is quite a unique one. This dependence effects power industry. The share of natural gas in Belarusian total energy system equals to 95 percent. The slightest increase in cost of fuel can trigger economic shock.”
However, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of the Republic of Belarus the first 2007 months has not proved any difficulties in total energy system and in economy as a whole. The 1st quarter GDP figures have increased by 8.4 percent and the size of Russian gas consumption decreased. The main reason for this was this winter’s curiously warm weather. Despite of these facts the government and top-managers are aware of the fact that stable economic development needs “gas substitutes”.
The National academy of science actively stands for the idea of nuclear power station construction and its members say that one station can satisfy the 1/3 country’s need for energy. This is a huge amount of energy but the main problem is Belarusian specialists have no own experience in nuclear power stations designing and construction. The participation in projects of the scientists from Russian, the Ukrainian and west European countries companies is widely discussed. “And we should bear in mind the fact that nuclear power station will be built not earlier than in 2015 or probably 2020. The question arises where the country should get the energy during this period?” — remarks Vsevolod Pekelis.
The first vice-minister Vladimir Semashko is sure of the idea Belarus should follow the practice of Sweden and construct mini TPPs (thermal power plants) that work on wood residual. “Belarus and Sweden are very alike. We have nearly the same territory surface, number of inhabitants, surface covered by woods… When in Sweden I noticed that there were TPPs in every town. They satisfy 50 percent of electricity need and provide the citizens with heat. These TPP provide 18,5 percent of the whole energy produced in Sweden. To my point of view Belarus has all chances to follow successful practice of Sweden”, — says Vladimir Semashko.
Two mini TPPs are already in operation — these are plants in Bobruisk and Osipovichi. In the nearest future the plants in Vilejka and Mosty are to start producing energy and new mini-plants are to be built in some regional centers by 2010. According to Vladimir Semashko, the government hopes private capital will take part in construction. “State company “Belenergo” is to buy the surplus of energy produced by mini TPP. The price for these goods will be twice higher”, — says vice-premier. This should kindle the interest of potential investors.
There is another huge project that could be realized by the government and private companies — coal energy development. The chairman of presidium of the National Academy of Sciences says that there are plans to build a 600 megawatt coal TPP. The are also plans to modernize and reconstruct 2 100 megawatt non profitable stations. Moreover the Ministry of architecture and construction plans to transfer energy-intensive concrete production plants from gas to coal consumption.
According to data provided by scientists Belarus has its own coal reserve but its commercial production is questionable. This is the reason why Belarus has to import this type of fuel from Poland and the Ukraine. “Coal projects” will help Belarus lessen its dependence from Russian gas monopoly.
However, such projects have one obstacle: despite of the fact that coal is a cheap energy carrier one should organize transportation. Modern railway station net is not able to cope with additional application of load. The laying of new railway tracks requires new funds.
Vsevolod Pekelis and Georgiy Kirilchik, head of Minsk regional administration of energy effectiveness department suppose that wind energy could be very profitable. “In the coming 1.5–2 years 15–20 megawatt wind energy stations will be built in Minsk region. The total number of stations should be from 15 to 20, — says Pekelis. The needed sum for construction equals to15–20 million dollars, and the will be paid off in 5–6 years. The game is worth the candle.”
“Belarus doesn’t have seashores as Denmark but it has highlands with altitude above the sea not lower than 250 meters. This is enough for commercial use of wind energy, — says the expert. These highlands can be leased to investors for wind energy production. This could be a very profitable business for the government. When investors have trustworthy guarantee that wind energy would be bought by governmental power system they would invest in such projects. It goes without saying that these tariffs should be lucrative for “Belenergo” too”…
Thus some “gas substitute”projects that have nothing to do with atomic energy are to be realized in the nearest future. And more than probable that private business and foreign companies will take an active part in mini-TPP and wind station construction, coal supply and other undertakings of government and scientific community. Vladimir Semashko is sure that alternative energetic is a lucrative sphere: “Undertakings are rarely paid off in 1–2 years. But the time goes quickly and committed facilities pay dividends”.
Partnership energy between state
Gas can be substituted not only by “atomic energy”