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RAO Energy Systems of East: "RES is a necessity dictated by the time"


In 2014, the holding company "RAO Energy Systems of East" presented a large-scale program for the development of renewable energy in the Far Eastern Federal District.
According to the program, by 2020 the company plans to build more than 170 facilities with a total capacity of about 120 MW. Gradually, one after the other in different regions of the republic of Sakha (Yakutia) appear solar plants and on Sakhalin and Kamchatka - white windmills. We have talked with Alexei Kaplun - Deputy General Director for Strategy and Investment of "RAO Energy Systems of East", co-chair of the conference organizing committee.

-          Last year at the Second International Conference "Renewable energy in isolated systems of the Far East of Russia" you talked about a comprehensive program for the development of renewable energy sources. Plans of the company are quite ambitious; it was noted by all guests of the event.

-          Ambitious? Probably. But I would rather call them economically and climatically justified. We do not develop renewable energy for renewable energy. And we stated that we want to build 120 MW by 2020, not in order to impress someone. In an effort to implement renewable energy projects in the Far East we are based primarily on economic feasibility.  In addition to the centralized power supply zones "RAO ES of the East" is working in hundreds of isolated settlements, access to which is not easy. Power supply here is due to diesel power - the cost of such energy can reach 100 rubles per 1 kWh. Moreover, the structure of the fuel cost is up to 70%, as delivery it to a destination means to spend a huge amount of time (in some areas the delivery of fuel can take up to 2 years – Editor’s note) and money for logistics.In such circumstances, any measures which allow reducing fuel consumption mean the release of funds for us. If we place renewable energy facilities in a suitable place in addition to the diesel station, which replaces a portion of the diesel generation at minimal cost, there is a real opportunity to stabilize tariff. Operation of "green" energy facilities has a positive effect on the ecology of the unique Far Eastern natural corners. At some point, we have analyzed the cost of diesel, have estimated the actual geography of projects for renewable energy, calculated the necessary capacity, the payback period and the expected effect and formulated our comprehensive program with those parameters, which were sounded outside. All figures are backed by common sense. That is, we do not solve the problem the way like "we need to install 120 green megawatts in the DFO anyway." We solve the problem of fuel economy, and here 120 MW provided by renewable energy sources can help.

-          Did you have anything to adjust in the program for the last year in connection with the current economic realities? Perhaps there are some adjustments due to technical nuances?

-          We did not make any changes in the program. Even though that right in the midst of discussions on the Batagai contract the rapid ruble weakening began. The fate of this project was called into question, and this question has been almost Shakespearean "To be or not to be?"because exchange rate fluctuations affect the value of contracts in euros. However, contrary to the financial vicissitudes, the project succeeded.

-          During the design phase of the solar station in the village of Batagai you predicted difficulty with delivery of the necessary equipment. How was all in reality? And what other difficulties did you experience in the implementation of the project?

-          We had difficulties, not only financial ones. We signed the contract in November. In fact, we were very short of time to deliver the necessary equipment to the site on the winter road. Winter roads are closed in April, we didn’t have right to make mistakes - everything was to arrive at Batagai at designated time and in the quantity and quality provided by the project.  And we did it, plus the weather has helped us a little bit - winter road that year lasted a little longer than usual. In general, the project for the construction of SES in Batagai can be called a little bit special, and it's not just that we are talking about the largest solar plant in the Arctic Circle.

-          Why is it so special?

-          Firstly, the type of a contract. That was the first time we dealt with a contract which includes a number of "turnkey" works by a contractor. That is, we simply were to say "We need to install a solar station with a capacity of 1 MW in Batagai", and come on a certain day to the site and take over a fully ready to launch energy facility. But the situation required our periodic participation in the project not only as a customer, but also in logistical support, cooperation with the authorities and other matters. We all had one and the same goal. We worked in partnershipjointly solving some administrative issues - on the ground and on the delivery of materials.In this project, as no other before, the synchronization of all the chains of interaction was of great importance.

Secondly, we have delivered more equipment than it was actually required for that project, delivering the equipment for other projects in Verkhoyansk ulus, hereby eliminating additional transportation component, which is a very significant item of expenditure in the implementation of any energy projects in the Far East.Such an approach will reduce costs and payback period.

-          In the spring, during the installation work, you flew to inspect Batagai – did you feel the excitement of the locals anticipating of a new solar station?

-          Of course, I couldn’t help feeling it!  Especially for the opening of SES the villagers rescheduled their national festival of Ysyakh to simultaneously celebrate two collinear holidays associated with the sun. The local school held a competition of children's drawings dedicated to the new solar plant. Furthermore, besides the station itself its small copy was installed in their cultural zone. Next to the future memorial sign they organized landscaping of the adjacent territory, a new small fountain, and eventually, we hope, there will be a complete recreation area, popular among the locals. So interest in the station and premonition of a holiday in the preparatory phase one could feel very well. And I would like to mention about the teamwork of the contractor, "Sakhaenergo" specialists and our colleagues, which could be observed in Batagai at the same time, during the construction phase. Government of the Republic provides tremendous support. All worked on one thing - smoothly and precisely.

-          Will there be the experience of building such solar plants in other regions of the Far East?

-          I think yes. And this experience is almost unique, because there the first time we faced with certain nuances of logistics and faced the need to develop SES installation technology in polar conditions. I already mentioned about shipping - in a very short time we had to transport dock schedules of all equipment components to the total supply of materials for winter road passed in time. To meet the deadline is a major specificity of projects in remote areas of the DFO. With regard to technological solutions of the Batagai SES unlike all its predecessors, we decided to put on a pile foundation, and it required a clarification of several issues: how to apply the pile, at what depth to install them, how to ensure the reliability of the design and to eliminate the gradual bulging of piles after periodic thawing and frost. Within a year or two we will control the situation with these foundations to further apply developed solutions for other projects. It is certain that for future projects we will use an integrated approach for delivery of equipment. This is when the materials delivered to the administrative center are intended for several projects in the nearby settlements. And, definitely, projects such as Batagai allow to feel that we are all - "RAO ES of the East", "Sakhaenergo", "Yakutskenergo", region - in the same boat, and to go forward, we must all together lay to our oars .

-          Which regions except Yakutia consist in active dialogue with the "RAO Energy Systems of the East"?

-          Kamchatka and Sakhalin. There we have implemented over the past year projects to build wind turbines; there are plans for their further development. The governor of Primorye declared his support for RES projects and we have signed an agreement, but active operations are not yet taken as our coastal partners are currently busy with other priorities. In Khabarovsk, we discuss the project in the village of Chumikan with the beginning of the implementation in 2016. At the heart of this project - a comprehensive approach to energy settlement, involving not only the construction of wind turbines, but also to obtain the concession of municipal DES. We continue to discuss the development of renewable energy with Chukotka, with the city of Vladivostok we developed justification of investments for construction of wind turbines on the island Popov. On the whole we continue to move towards the intended results of the program - with someone going faster with someone slower. We are not standing still. We are expanding geographical presence - agreed with North Korea to build two wind farms in trade-economic zone “Rason”, the territory of the border with us, on our side we are considering several sites. This summer, we are planning to install wind instrument complexes there and in Primorye .

-          Last year, the normative regulation of the sphere of renewable energy has resulted in one of the most vivid discussions of the Second International Conference on Renewable Energy. Over the past 12 months, the relevant legislation has been amended. How do they impact on the plans of "RAO ES of the East" for the development of renewable energy in the region?

-          In the field of regulation - Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation №47 from 23 January 2015. It provides a number of amendments to certain acts for promoting the use of renewable energy sources in the retail markets of electric energy. We will try to work in a new reality, but in general, our plans are not affected. As before, we are working within the energy, banking on the return projects through a substitutable fuel component…

-          And what about the activity of producers willing to cooperate and to adapt their proposals under the specific conditions of the Far East?

-          We are continuing to develop a partnership with the Government of the Kamchatka Territory and the Japanese government development organization New Energy and Industrial Technology (NEDO). In the framework of this cooperation, together with Japanese companies Mitsui & Co and Komai Haltec Inc we implement wind turbine project in Ust-Kamchatsky. Especially for us, they have designed a wind turbine that was tested, comparable with the actual conditions of operation in a large cold room where the unit was cooled to a temperature of minus 40 degrees. As a result, the equipment obtained is adapted to the specifics of the Far East. There is one wind power plant already; two more should accompany it until the end of 2015. Now we would like to continue cooperation with NEDO in the framework of a new project in Tiksi - for a wind park with an energy storage system. For all our projects - whether solar or wind generation - we are looking for the most appropriate technology. There are technical offers from China, Korea and other countries. We are always open for cooperation.

-          June 25-27 Yakutsk for the third time is going to host an international conference on renewable energy, where participants discuss various aspects of renewable energy development in the Far Eastern Federal District. What are your expectations from the third conference?

-          Conference is an excellent platform to exchange views and experiences. This "concentrated" communication within a few days, usually gives good results in the form of new acquaintances, interesting ideas and promising projects. This year's conference title sounds a bit wider than before; the development of projects and the regulatory framework provide an opportunity to consider the perspectives of all areas of DFO in terms of the development of renewable energy projects. We hope that it will be useful for all guests. In addition, this conference will sound the theme of modernization of diesel stations. Recently, we have initiated a program of reconstruction of our DES. This is done for the development of renewable energy in the Far East.

We expect that the business sessions and informal discussions will be yet more proof that the development of renewable energy sources in the Far East is a necessity dictated by the times for representatives of energy companies, businesses and enforcement authorities.

Ekaterina Zakharova