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Renewable energy

The Law on Renewable Energy Sources regulates relations among all entities involved in the use of RESs for electricity production and consumption, as well as production of renewables for use by renewable energy plants. The creation of new facilities, and modernisation and reconstruction of existing facilities for renewable energy activities, is defined by the Decree on the Use of Renewable Sources of Energy and the Resolution on Setting and Allocating Quotas for the Construction of Renewable Energy Facilities.

Tariffs for electricity produced from RESs by individual entrepreneurs and legal entities not part of Belenergo were established under the Resolution on Tariffs for Electricity Produced from Renewable Energy Sources (2018).

The main emphasis in Belarus is on increasing the use of wood fuel, as it requires less capital investment than other types of renewable energy. Fuel from woody biomass (i.e. rough wood, pellets, chips and briquettes) is produced locally using modern harvesting and wood-chipping equipment.

In overall renewable energy capacity, as of December 2018 Belarus had:

  • More than 3 200 installations using local energy resources, with total electrical capacity of 130 MW and thermal capacity of over 6 000 MW, including 22 mini co‑generation plants1 generating 130 MW of electricity and 345 megawatts thermal (MWth) of heat.
  • 21 biogas plants with total electrical capacity of 34.3 MW.
  • 2651 small hydroelectric power stations with total installed electrical capacity of 7.018 MW.
  • 50 wind power plants with total installed electrical capacity of 102.7 MW.
  • 118 heat pumps, with total heat capacity of 10 MWth.
  • 63 solar PV plants with total electrical capacity of 154.3 MW.
  • 287 solar heating installations with total heat capacity of 3.9 MWth.

Hydropower resources in Belarus are deemed scarce, though there are opportunities for small hydro in the northern and central parts of the country. Total hydropower potential is estimated at 850 MW, including technically available potential of 520 MW and economically viable potential of 250 MW (0.44 Mtoe/year).

Solar power potential is significant, mainly in the south and southeast of the country. In terms of global horizontal irradiation (GHI) and direct normal irradiation (DNI), most of Belarus receives only 1 100 kilowatt hours per square metre (kWh/m2) to 1 400 kWh/m2 of GHI, and around 1 000 kWh/m2 of DNI. This means that concentrated solar power (CSP) generation is impractical, but production by means of solar PV is possible. Solar energy could also be used in solar water heaters and other systems for water heating and drying in agriculture, water and space heating in buildings, and low-temperature process heat in industry and services. Total solar potential is therefore estimated at 49.7 Mtoe/year.

Wind energy potential is estimated at up to 1 600 MW (0.47 Mtoe/year based on average wind speeds and plants with 2.5 MW capacity at an altitude of 100 metres), with 1 840 wind farms possible in three regions: Hrodna, Minsk and Mogilev. This is not a high-quality resource, but still acceptable in certain places owing to the recent development of low-wind-speed turbines. These estimates seem conservative, however, as modern wind technology has increased the scale of turbines (now with an average size of over 2 MW per turbine) and raised the energy yield, particularly at lower wind speeds. It is therefore recommended that estimates of wind potential be updated to take these developments and modern best practices in spacing and siting of turbines into account.

Belarus’s geothermal potential is relatively undiscovered, with only a few regions having been tested. Of the tested regions, the most promising geothermal energy potential lies in the Pripyat Trough (Gomel region) and the Podlasie-Brest Depression (Brest region), in dozens of abandoned deep wells. Other areas studied include the shallow sedimentary horizons in the western part of the country, while potential for low-enthalpy geothermal energy is believed to exist over the entire territory.

Belarus’s potential for producing bioenergy from wood residues is significant, as forests cover about 40% of the country’s territory (9.5 million ha), 50% of which is mature solid biomass (wood). Solid biomass resources from waste wood suitable for producing bioenergy include firewood, timber, wood residue and fast-growing grey alder. Solid biomass resources are estimated at 1.5 bcm with annual growth of about 30.3 million cubic metres (mcm). Fast-growing plantations of grey alder account for around 18 mcm, with 1 mcm used as firewood. Solid biomass from waste wood is consumed in 7 heat plants and 3 000 boilers; production capacity of wood and waste wood fuels is estimated at 11.7 mcm annually (2.2 Mtoe), with around 10 mcm utilised at present. According to the National Programme on Local and Renewable Energy Development for 2011-2015, energy potential from wood and wood processing waste is approximately 2.2 Mtoe/year; from crop waste 1 Mtoe/year; and from straw 0.7 Mtoe/year.

Biogas potential is also considerable owing to the many professionally operated large-scale animal farms (cattle, pig and poultry) as well as significant waste from households, crops and sewage treatment plants, and municipal and food industry waste.

With 7.7 Mt of manure output per year, around 3.5 bcm (2.3 Mtoe) of biogas could be generated. Preliminary government studies of potential energy from wastewater treatment plants indicate that around 9.2 MW of heat is possible from sites across the country, and solid municipal waste energy potential is estimated at 0.3 Mtoe/year.

Potential for biofuel production (ethanol and biodiesel) is high because of the country’s large agricultural land area and activity, with most opportunities coming from sugar production, starch and the cellulose industry.

Energy efficiency

The National Energy Saving Programme 2011-2015 (Resolution No. 1882) set ambitious targets of reducing energy intensity of GDP by 29-32% by 2015 compared with 2010 and increasing the share of local energy resources in the fuel balance to 28% by 2015. Growth in both real GDP and energy demand was assumed, and a wide range of measures was envisioned to achieve these objectives. Energy intensity in 2012 was 0.21 toe per USD 1 000 GDP PPP, which was 39% lower than in 2002, or the fifth lowest among Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) countries.

The 2014 Law on Energy Savings stipulates energy efficiency technology implementation and equipment requirements, and total required funding was estimated at USD 8.6 billion: 38% from enterprises, 27% from the national budget and 15% from local budgets; loans and other resources were planned to finance the remaining 20%. 

However, as reported by the Department of Energy Efficiency, national and regional budgets provided only USD 1 439 million – 40% less than what was initially planned – and the Programme’s energy efficiency targets for 2011-15 have not been achieved.

According to the National Energy Saving Programme 2016-2020 (Resolution No. 248), in 2011‑14 the energy intensity of Belarus’s GDP dropped by 8.3% (GDP grew by 9.8%, but energy consumption remained practically unchanged). Although 8.3% is a considerable decrease, it is more than three times short of the target set in 2011.

Energy intensity of GDP under the National Energy Saving Programme 2016-2020 is to be reduced by at least 2% by 2021 compared with 2015. Domestically sourced primary energy in total energy consumption is planned to reach at least 16% – mainly owing to inauguration of the NPP, although 6% is to come from renewable sources. Funding for these energy saving measures, based on Belarus’s social and economic development parameters, has been set at BYN 11 064.2 million (USD 5 625 million).

In 2016, the energy intensity of GDP rose 1.2% even though the target was a 0.4% drop, while in 2017 it climbed 0.5%, missing the targeted 0.5% decrease, and in 2018 it increased 1.5%, again exceeding the +1% target. Rising consumption of fuel and energy resources not regulated by the state standard (i.e. gasoline and diesel fuel by the general population, in addition to other fuels and raw materials) led to higher gross consumption of fuel and energy resources, preventing GDP energy intensity reduction targets from being met.

At the end of 2018, local energy resources made up 15.5% of gross energy consumption and RESs accounted for 6.1 %.

As international technical norms and standards are essential for improving energy efficiency, 250 technical regulations were developed from 2007 to 2015 (more than 90% harmonised with international and European requirements) and 138 during 2016-20 under the Programme for Developing the System for Technical Regulation, Standardisation and Conformity Attestation in the Field of Energy Saving. The Energy Efficiency Department of the State Standardisation Committee has seven regional offices and is responsible for implementing and monitoring policies on energy savings, energy efficiency and renewable energy. It develops proposals for energy efficiency improvements and for technical regulations and standardisation of energy equipment, provides state supervision of efficient energy use, and develops legal and financial measures to stimulate energy efficiency.

Public awareness of energy efficiency in Belarus is relatively high, as information is regularly shared through media campaigns, information sessions, publications, educational seminars and other avenues of information dissemination.

Environmental protection

The national environmental policy provides for gradual restructuring of energy production and a higher technological level of production, resource conservation, use of low-waste and non-waste technologies, reduced emissions and discharges of pollutants into the environment, recycling and processing of waste, and elimination of the negative effects of economic activity. Environmental improvements are to be achieved with new technologies, construction, modernisation of existing infrastructure and industries, and environmental standards and regulations.

Climate change

Belarus is an Annex I Party to the Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Its first target was to reduce GHG emissions by 8% from the 1990 level in the 2008-12 commitment period, and the government then decreed a 12% reduction for the second period (2013-20). The target for the second period was changed to an 8% reduction at the Doha Conference of the Parties (COP) in December 2012, but this change has not yet come into effect.

Main policies and measures fall under the State Programme of Measures to Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change for 2013-20: it targets an 8% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020 compared with 1990 (about 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent [MtCO2-eq]). The measures to achieve this include energy efficiency improvements, enlargement of forested areas, restoration of peatlands and improvements to the regulatory and legal framework related to climate change, at an estimated cost of EUR 8.3 million. Policy decisions on climate change were prepared in close co‑operation with international bodies.

GHG emissions in Belarus were 89.2 MtCO2-eq in 2012 – 35.8% lower than in 1990 (not including land use, land use change and forestry [LULUCF]). Owing to its large forested area, emissions including LULUCF were 63.7 MtCO2-eq in 2012. GHG emissions in Belarus have been rising since the mid-1990s with economic growth and increased demand for energy, but even if emissions continue to increase it can still reach its 2013‑20 Kyoto target.

Energy-related emissions of CO2 totalled 58.3 Mt in 2013, approximately 80% of total GHG emissions. Dominated by power generation (50.1%) and transport (21.4%), emissions in 2013 were 13.4% higher than in 2003 but 41.6% lower than in 1990.

Belarus submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to COP21 in 2015, with a pledge to reduce emissions by at least 28% by 2030 compared with 1990. It officially adopted the Paris Agreement in September 2016.

Technology research, development and deployment

The Academy of Sciences organises and co‑ordinates fundamental and applied research in the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, and the humanities and arts in line with the country’s goals and policies. It also monitors the energy security indicators and develops strategies for maintaining them, and it is responsible for scientific and technical research in implementing projects related to renewable and alternative energy.

All technologies currently deployed in Belarus are mature and have commercial status. The technology with the most mature local market is biomass, currently used mainly in heat generation. Belarus is still in the early stages of deploying wind, solar PV and biogas, although the technologies used in their development are considered mature and meet international standards.

Belarus does not conduct significant research and development (R&D) in renewable technologies, instead focusing mostly on energy savings and efficiency. Under the latest Scientific and Technical Programme for Power Engineering and Energy Efficiency for 2016-2020, R&D priorities in renewables include resource assessments and the use of industrial biogas and municipal waste, although without significant funding. Another area of development is the production of competitive equipment and instruments that increase energy efficiency and system reliability.

Notes and references
  1. Co-generation refers to the combined production of heat and power.