Green Energy in Murmansk Region Against Climate Change: advances and problems

Olga Senova

April 6 to 8, 2011: A media tour was held in Murmansk region in order to introduce journalists and NGO activists to local examples of low-carbon solutions, among them: the energy efficient block in the town of Apatity, Vetroenergo wind power turbine at a hotel in Murmansk and the use of geothermal heat pumps for buildings (by Dial company). The tour was organized by RSEU Climate Secretariat, Friends of the Baltic NGO and Kola Environmental Center.

Murmansk region is self-subsistent in terms of energy, where a large part of net energy supply is provided by a hydro power station and by Kola nuclear power plant. According to the environmental NGO community nuclear power cannot be regarded as a solution to climate-related issues, having in mind that the life span of two out of a total of four reactors have elapsed, and the third one’s license is about to expire. Other energy sources that are traditional for Kola Peninsula are coal and residual oil. That accentuates the need to reduce green house gases emissions in the region.

The Energy Efficient Block project is aimed at modernizing entire housing complexes, including residential property, schools and hospitals in 4 pilot cities: Apatity, Vorkuta, Kazan and Tyumen. The gained experience was supposed to be multiplied all over the country.
Apatity was not picked by chance to take part in the project, since a huge experience has been collected there in the field of running energy saving projects. As part of a Presidential project an apartment block was picked out of 143 objects. The project was supposed to receive a large portion of state funding, but unfortunately, no such funding was received.

Kazan and Tyumen managed to draw regional funding for the project. Vorkuta failed to do that due to budget deficit. Apatity experienced financing issues as well. By taking funds from the amounts allocated for residential renovation they managed to support the housing communities that performed renovations with regard to increasing energy efficiency of the buildings. Despite financial issues the project provided as the result a number of recommendations and lists of typical items for residential and public buildings, including already tested solutions (energy saving light bulbs and automatic heat supply stations among them). Maximum economy (over 45%) has been reached in the houses where insulation measures, reinstallation of heating systems, meters and heating regulation have been performed or set up. Intermediate economical assessment of efficiency measures in those houses showed a 300 rubles benefit per month per apartment.

According to Elena Kruglikova of Kola Environmental Center (Apatity), the most important thing is to show to the community that energy efficiency is possible and profitable, and to use public initiatives to implement energy saving measures in the housing sector. But the achievements could have been more substantial given more financial support. If as the result of an energy audit an economical justification of the necessary energy efficiency measures is prepared, then energy service companies can be attracted more easily to perform more costly measures with a longer pay-back time.

Murmansk region has a big renewable energy potential. As estimated by Kola Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, wind power technical potential is 20 times more than what Kola energy system is providing at the moment. The experience showed by a wind power installation by Vetroenergo in Murmansk proves it to be a reliable and energy efficient energy source.

Nowadays there are plans to substitute oil-residue based fuel used at boiler stations with coal, which does not contribute to helping the climate. There are plans to develop Kola nuclear power station capacity, while the Japanese example clearly illustrates that this is far from being a safe solution. There is a need for alternative energy technology.

In December 2006 Yury Evdokimov, the Governor of Murmansk region, signed ecologists’ declaration stating the necessity to expand the share of wind power up to 20% by 2020 in the region’s energy balance and established a working group and provided funding for the development of a wind energy program. In January 2009 the program draught was done, but the program itself has not been adopted yet. The numbers mentioned there show a goal of 7,5% wind power by 2015, which is higher than the average Russia goal of 4,5% by 2020 as stated by President Medvedev.

Now wind energy is more expensive than that of traditional energy sources. Both in Germany and Denmark and the UK this field is subsidized by the state. But even in Russia rare examples of using wind turbines show it may be profitable and is able to solve many social and environmental issues. New more solid and cheaper materials as well as technical solutions are appearing, thus wind energy becomes more and more able to meet competition.

Current regional government is aiming at reaching a net power generating capacity of wind power installations of 50 mWt by 2012.Three projects of wind parks have already been assessed, two of them approved. Besides, the government of Murmansk region and Rosdiagnostica company have signed an agreement to produce parts of wind power installations (namely, the blades) at a factory in Kandalaksha, which would enable the development of wind power sector of Kola peninsula.

According to Vitaly Servetnik of Nature and Youth NGO, Murmansk region is one of the most promising regions in the world for wind energy development. It is sheer crime to avoid using the free energy of the wind, he says. It is wind power that can become a safe replacement to the old and dangerous Kola nuclear station.

In many countries geothermal heat pumps (GHP) are used to provide heating for buildings. GHP use the energy of different media, such as ground waters, sewage, exhaust gases, soils, etc. and prove to be very efficient: they produce 3 to 7 of kW of heat energy for every kW used. They do not require paying for additional transportation and storage of fuel and decreases overall costs drastically. GHP are environmentally friendly. They replace a traditional energy source and ensure emissions reduction, thus impact on climate. A GHP used for demonstration purposes by DIAL company in Murmansk shows that it is very easy to use and creates a comfortable indoors environment by ensuring minimal temperature fluctuations. GHPs are still not cheap, but the cost is comparable to connecting to a gas grid, while gas is not provided everywhere. Over 20 mln GHP are used worldwide nowadays. The pay-back time is usually 1 to 2 years. In Russia it is a bit longer, but this technology will ensure substantial economy all the rest of its life. A GHP used by DIAL in a 280 sq.m. house has helped save 150 thousand rubles during the first year of its exploitation.

As predicted by World Energy Commission, by 2020 the share of GHP in world heat power supply will reach 75%. In the housing sector GHP may be used to provide heating for stand-alone buildings and private single-family houses. At industrial premises GHP are used to utilize the heat from sewage to put the energy back to use.

Unfortunately, we failed to see the example of using wood waste for heat energy production which was once used in Verkhnetulomsky settlement. In 2007, according to local media, the experiment proved successful and the resulting economy from saving energy helped reduce heating fees for local inhabitants. At the moment the boiler station is using oil fuel again due to high wood waste process. Lack of project sustainability assessment as well as lack of stable wood matter supplies and support from the state adds up to the reasons of this failure.

Russia’s Climate Doctrine prioritizes the development of low-carbon energy sources. If tools of governmental support (such as cheap loans or other bonuses for both suppliers and consumers) were implemented, then decentralized sources like local fuel-based boiler stations, wind installations and GHPs could be spread more widely and could help replace hydrocarbons and eliminate energy losses from transportation.

Unfortunately, no Action Plan to implement the Doctrine has been adopted yet, and there are no active measures to support green low-carbon energy. Given that the state supports so-called carbon monopolies, there is no interest in energy efficiency implementation by consumers. It is common that when a consumer reduces their energy consumption by using simple energy efficiency measures, the supplier does not want to lose their benefit and increases the tariffs, instead of increasing one’s own production efficiency, by eliminating losses and reducing the overall costs. There has to be a social-oriented policy that would support energy innovations, to the end that the needs to be planning of how to move labour from a shrinking traditional sector to a new green energy sector, by providing more green jobs in the same region.

NGOs believe that their mission is to educate final energy consumers and are ready to collaborate with whoever it may concern.

Olga Senova, Head of RSEU Climate Secretariat, says that today everyone has to become their own energy manager. Everybody has to keep in mind their energy costs, and is able to improve energy efficiency of their own home, to shop or use transportation having energy efficiency in mind, too. Anyone, be it a housing community leader or head of a municipality or an entrepreneur has to become an energy manager to find ways to reduce inefficient energy costs.
In order to perform large-scale measures and draw investments into the RE and energy efficiency branch there has to be a specially designed program providing special tariffs and green certificates that enable both suppliers and consumers of such energy to receive bonuses and additional benefits. Then the educated consumer will have a chance to vote for green energy with their own money.


The first material published after the media-tour – the Komsomolskaya Pravda .
More publication are under preparation: TV TNT, Murmansk Cable TV, Radio Murmansk, newspapers Polyarnaya Pravda, S.Petersburg Vedomosti, some internet media.