Ecology, green energy and the transition to renewable energy sources have become extremely popular topics in society. This is a trend for Western countries, but for Russia, it is a novelty and a potential development trajectory.
To begin with, let's start with the very concept of the energy transition. The energy transition, in a broad sense, can be defined as the transition from the generation and consumption of traditional fossil fuels to renewable energy sources (RES). They are also called natural sources due to their constant replenishment, and also because they lead to low to zero emissions compared to traditional fuel sources like natural gas. The sun, wind, sea and ocean tides and waves, hydropower resources of rivers, as well as underground hot springs, are sources of renewable energy.
It is important to understand that the energy transition that is taking place today is the fourth shift in the structural transformation of the global energy sector. The increase in the share of low-carbon and carbon-free energy sources are distinctive features of the fourth energy transition. The beginning of the fourth energy transition in Russia is considered to be in 2019. This year, our country joined the Paris Agreement and promised to reduce greenhouse emissions by 30% (compared with 1990 levels) by 2030.
At the moment, two initiatives called "Clean Energy" and "New Nuclear Energy" are being implemented as part of the approved strategic initiatives for the socio-economic development of our country in the field of energy. Russia declared goal of carbon neutrality by 2060. Our country is also developing the hydrogen economy as part of the development of low-carbon energy. For this purpose, the Russian government has approved a roadmap for the development of hydrogen energy at the end of 2022. The Russian government allocates 9.3 billion rubles for the development of hydrogen power in the country until 2024.
Let's now take a closer look at the already existing sources for green power generation, as well as the prospects for three regions in the Northwest.
The Republic of Karelia has a large number of rivers with sufficient height differences. These natural features are actively used in the construction and development of hydroelectric power plants. This creates the prospect for the region's transition to green energy.
The list of operating renewable energy sources in the Republic of Karelia is much broader than, for example, in the Murmansk Region. It includes fifteen facilities: Kondopozhskaya SHPP, Palieozerskaya HPP, Hyamekoski HPP-21, Pitkyakoski SHPP, Ignoyla HPP, Kalliokoski SHPP, Lyaskelya SHPP, Yushkozerskaya HPP, Kiwi Koivu HPP, Belomorskaya HPP, Palokorgskaya HPP, Suuri Yoki HPP, Harlu HPP-22, Ryumyakoski SHPP, Pieni-Joki HPP-24.
Another hydroelectric power plant is located in the Kondopoga District of the Republic of Karelia near Girvas settlement. The hydropower plant on the Suna River is a part of the Suna cascade of hydroelectric stations. Through the structures of the Palieozerskaya HPP, the flow of the Suna River is transferred to the basin of Lake Sandal. This in turn ensures the operation of the downstream Kondopozhskaya HPP. When the Palieozerskaya hydropower plant was launched in December 1954, the Suna cascade of hydroelectric stations was formed. The Suna cascade of hydroelectric stations is owned and operated by TGC-1 power company.
Wind-solar energy complexes, being a small-sized source of electricity, is another source of renewable energy used in the Republic of Karelia. These complexes are located at bus stops, crosswalks, and road weather stations on the highways R-21 "Kola" (also known as the Kola Motorway) and A-119 "Vologda - Medvezhegorsk". Such devices include solar and rechargeable batteries.
The Russian Association of Wind Power Industry also considers Karelia as a promising region for wind power. However, they note some limitations to its development. NovaWind JSC refused to build the wind farm in 2019, which once again emphasized the existence of these restrictions. The implementation of this project was discussed in 2012 after the signing of an agreement on the construction of eight wind farms between the Government of Karelia and VES LLC. However, most experts considered the project to be economically impractical.
Solar, wind, geothermal power plants, biogas stations and small hydropower plants are operating in the Murmansk Oblast. Hydropower plants are the most popular source of green energy in the region.
In February 2022, Greenpeace Russia created an interactive map of renewable energy sources. Four hydroelectric power plants in the Murmansk region were included in this list (Niva HPP-1, Kaitakoski SHPP, Teriberskaya HPP-1 and Kislogubskaya tidal power plant (TPP)).
The most promising area for the development of renewable energy sources in this region is wind farms. According to the Kola Science Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the technical wind potential of the Kola Peninsula is 350 billion kWh per year. The Murmansk region is among the top three subjects in Russia by this indicator.
The first stage of the Kola wind park, the largest wind farm beyond the Arctic Circle, was commissioned on December 1, 2022. This project has existed since 2001, but only in 2021 did it begin to be implemented. The power plant will generate about 750 kWh a year, avoiding the emission of about 600,000 of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Nowadays, several single low-capacity wind-solar hybrid power plants are operating in the Arkhangelsk Region.
Significant potential for green energy generation in this region is associated with the energy of marine tides. The Mezen Bay is the main source of tidal energy. This bay has the largest tidal wave height in Europe, reaching 10-12 meters.
The construction of the Mezenskaya tidal power plant (TPP) is a project for the development of hydropower potential in the Arctic zone of the Arkhangelsk Region. Its construction was discussed back in the 90s, but the project was postponed due to the excess of electricity. According to preliminary estimates, the Mezenskaya TPP will generate about 10-12 GW of electricity, as well as producing green hydrogen.
As we can see, the Arctic regions have their strengths in green energy generation. The Republic of Karelia is interested in the development of hydroelectric power plants. As this represents a great potential for renewable energy development in the region. In turn, the Murmansk Region is the most efficient in the wind industry.
The Arkhangelsk Region, on the other hand, has exceptional potential for the construction of hydroelectric power plants based on tidal energy. There are also common cases when local residents of these regions switch to renewable energy sources on their own. Residents use, in particular, the energy of the sun. In this respect, all the mentioned regions are similar to each other.
Photo: Palieozerskaya HPP
Photo: Kola Wind Farm
Photo: Mezen Bay
The editorial board of The Arctic Century