ASTANA (Reuters) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is considering financing wind farm projects in Kazakhstan as the oil-rich Central Asian state begins a push to develop renewable energy resources, a bank official told Reuters on Wednesday.
Kazakhstan, which has trebled oil production in the last decade on its way to becoming Central Asia’s largest economy, is seeking investment to develop wind, solar and hydroelectric projects to reduce a power deficit in parts of the country.
“The EBRD is considering, in 2012, financing wind farm projects in Kazakhstan,” said Riccardo Puliti, EBRD managing director and head of energy and natural resources.
“We are considering two or three projects for an amount of up to 100 million euros ($133 million) and are still considering whether this will be debt or equity,” he said on the sidelines of a conference.
Renewable energy projects are relatively rare in Kazakhstan, which sits on 3 percent of the world’s recoverable oil reserves and also plans to develop a nuclear fuel cycle based on the world’s second-largest uranium reserves.
But Kazakhstan’s vast and exposed steppe has potential for generating wind power, particularly in southern regions of the country that depend largely on electricity imported from nearby Uzbekistan or the distant coal seams of northern Kazakhstan.
Industry Minister Aset Isekeshev said Kazakhstan aimed by 2014 to be generating 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, or slightly over 1 percent of total consumption, from renewable sources. This share should rise to 3 percent by 2020, he said.
The minister told the conference that coal-fired power plants currently accounted for 75 percent of the electricity generated in Kazakhstan. Gas accounted for a further 12 percent and hydroelectric power 9 percent, he said.
Kazakhstan passed primary legislation in 2009 to stimulate investment in renewable energy sources and reduce the environmental impact of power generation.
Benefits of this law include priority land allocation for renewable energy sites and obligatory purchase by transmission companies of electricity generated from renewable sources.
The EBRD’s Puliti said the implementation of new wind farm projects would require the approval of secondary legislation that would define feed-in tariffs, the fee paid by the power distributor or transmission company to the wind farm.
This is likely to be higher than the average power tariff, in order to act as a stimulant for investment in wind power.
“In the next six months, it should be approved,” he said.
Bakhytzhan Dzhaksaliyev, vice-minister of industry, said work had begun on implementing a series of wind farm projects.
“The period from 2012 to 2014 will see the start of the first round of wind power projects,” he told the conference.
“Investor interest in the small hydroelectric power stations and wind farms is racing ahead at a gallop. The ministry receives investment proposals practically every day.”
Kazakhstan could have wind power generating capacity of 1,000 megawatts by 2014, said Andreas Thomas, senior vice-president for business development for Vestas Central Europe, a unit of Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems.
“The pure wind potential in Kazakhstan is much, much higher because they have an enormous land mass,” Thomas told Reuters.
Several wind farm projects are already under way.
Central Asian Green Power, a joint venture between Kazakh private equity company Visor Group and the Turkish subsidiary of Italy’s Relight Group, is undertaking a feasibility study into a wind farm project.
The potential $1 billion investment envisages the creation of a combined 600 megawatts of capacity at two locations in the southern Kazakh region of Zhambyl.
U.S. major Chevron also plans to invest in a wind power project in Kazakhstan, the Kazakh presidential website quoted Chevron Chief Executive John Watson as saying during a visit in April. It gave no further details.
State nuclear company Kazatomprom is also investing in wind turbines, as well as production of solar panels at a new plant now under construction. Dzhaksaliyev said it would have annual capacity to produce 50 megawatts of photovoltaic modules.
Editing by James Jukwey
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