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Renewable energy

Kyrgyzstan has considerable untapped renewable energy potential. Existing renewable energy consists of large HPPs, which account for 30% of total energy supply, but only 10% of hydropower potential has been developed. Opportunities to develop decentralised renewable energy technologies are especially promising, primarily small hydropower stations on rivers in the mountains. In 2016, there was approximately 40 MW of small hydro capacity.

Other viable options for renewable energy development in Kyrgyzstan include generating heat from solar energy and biogas, and electricity from wind and solar resources; no projects so far exploit these technologies.

The National Energy Program and the Strategy for Fuel and Energy Sector Development (covering 2010‑25) are the key policies for sustainable energy development. The rapid expansion of renewables, especially hydro, is a priority for energy sector development, and the Strategy supports the construction of approximately 100 small hydroelectric plants with total capacity of 180 MW.

Developing small HPPs is one of the Kyrgyz government’s top priorities because it is hoped that increased indigenous energy production will reduce fuel import reliance as well as emissions.

The Law on Renewable Energy adopted at the end of 2008 established an important framework for renewable energy development in general, and for small HPPs in particular. It provides a number of incentives and preferences, such as exemption from customs duties on equipment import and export, relief from licensing for generation, the right to sell output to consumers under commercial agreements, and guaranteed purchase of renewable energy output by the distribution company. Renewable energy developers also have a multiplying coefficient of 1.3 for the feed-in tariff (for all renewable sources: hydro, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal). The law also guarantees non-discriminatory access of renewable energy output to the grid and obligates the National Grid and distribution companies to ensure unobstructed transit of renewable energy to consumers.

Kyrgyzstan’s geographic location and climatic conditions are quite favourable for the broader development of solar energy, evident in solar radiation maps. Annual specific power generation by photoelectrical equipment has a potential 300 kilowatt hours per square metre (kWh/m2), and annual specific productivity of solar hot water supply could be up to 750 kWh/m2 (heat). These figures assume the availability of increasingly inexpensive photoelectrical converters, modules and flat solar collectors, as well as the necessary scientific-technical capacity.

In Kyrgyzstan’s predominantly mountainous terrain, winds of constant direction and strength sufficient for power generation can only be found in remote and sparsely populated areas. Analysis of instrumental observations at meteorological stations reveals that the actual average annual wind speed is much lower than 5 metres per second (m/s) (only at one weather station does it exceed 5 m/s, and that is for two months per year only). As construction of wind power plants is considered feasible from an average annual wind speed of 8 m/s, those areas with average speed of 5 m/s or less are not suitable for wind turbine installation. The potential for wind energy is therefore very low in populated residential areas, and the areas where wind energy could be economically viable are far from consumer centres and difficult to access.

Kyrgyzstan has more than 30 geothermal sources, but only some of them are used, and then only in sanatoriums and resorts (e.g. Issyk-Ata and Teplye Klyuchi) due to their low capacity. One method of using low-capacity geothermal energy involves collecting scattered low-temperature (5°C to 10°C) natural heat or industrial waste heat through heat pumps for heat supply. However, heat pumps are not widely used in Kyrgyzstan for several reasons, such as low electricity tariffs, lack of consumer knowledge on modern residential heat supply technologies, and a lack of specialised installation companies.

The main barriers to using biomass are its high cost and low conversion efficiency compared with fossil fuels, underdeveloped supply logistics, and risks associated with intensification of agriculture. Biomass capacity includes agriculture (livestock and plants), the food industry and solid domestic waste. Forestry waste, wastewater treatment systems, wood processing and the paper industry are not included because quantities are negligible.

The economic and productive capacity of biomass from livestock, plant material and the food industry relies heavily on the productivity of processing equipment and quantities provided by farms.

There are currently no waste-to-energy projects or initiatives. Municipalities of large cities have been considering building plants for converting non-recyclable waste materials into electricity and heat, but no plans have yet been fully developed or implemented.

Energy efficiency

Both energy supply and demand offer many opportunities for efficiency improvements in Kyrgyzstan. Infrastructure is aged, worn and highly inefficient with losses above 20%. Residential and commercial building stock was constructed during the Soviet era with few efficiency standards. Energy savings potential in buildings is estimated at a minimum of 15%, while modernisation and rehabilitation in the energy system could yield 25% savings.

The Law on Energy Savings is the main legislation related to energy efficiency. In March 2013, a Law on Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency in Buildings was adopted, and a State Programme on Energy Saving and Energy Efficiency Policy Planning for 2015-2017 was approved in August 2015.

The State Committee on Industry, Energy and Subsoil Use is tasked with developing incentives for energy efficiency, energy saving and the use of renewable energy sources, as well as creating conditions for introducing and using renewable energy sources and reliably supplying consumers with energy resources, industrial products and services. A department for renewable energy development has therefore been formed within the State Committee.

The State Inspectorate for Ecological and Technical Safety under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic is responsible for monitoring energy consumption.

Under the National Strategy for Sustainable Development for 2018-2040, energy efficiency technologies must be applied in all new construction and the government plans to implement large-scale programmes on energy‑efficient reconstruction of old residential and non-residential buildings, and to introduce energy efficiency passports for all buildings.  

Fuel switching

After Kyrgyzstan gained its independence, residential power consumption rose significantly due to intensive use of electricity for heating and cooking. In November 2014, new electricity tariffs were approved based on a 700‑kWh monthly threshold for residential electricity consumers (700 kWh is the level of power consumption that can be satisfied through domestic power generation). Above this threshold, residential consumers are charged a higher tariff (assessed for domestic power generation) plus the cost of imported power during the winter months. This threshold and the new tariffs provide incentives for consumers to conserve energy, especially in winter, and to adopt alternative fuels when it is economically efficient (coal, for example).

A more reliable supply of gas and implementation of Gazprom Kyrgyzstan’s investment programme to improve the gas grid will further encourage switching from electricity to gas and coal.

Environmental protection

The Law on Environmental Protection, the Law on Ecological Expertise and the Law on Common Technical Regulations to Ensure Environmental Security form the legislative backbone for environmental protection in Kyrgyzstan. They regulate environmental impact assessments and the process of environmental appraisal.

The Electricity Law requires that a study be conducted prior to construction of an HPP to assess the use of water resources for purposes other than electricity generation. The results of that study must be provided to the local authorities of the territory in which the HPP will be constructed or will have effects. Any call for tenders relating to HPPs should contain a memorandum on such a study and its results, and all expenses and losses incurred by the local population as the result of HPP construction should be included in the estimated construction costs.

The Water Law also requires that a state ecological appraisal be conducted prior to construction and commissioning of plants and facilities that may impact water resources and/or the condition of hydro-economic facilities. Financing construction work at water facilities without a state ecological appraisal is prohibited.

Kyrgyzstan’s State Agency on Environmental Protection and Forestry is responsible for ecological appraisal and monitoring. A state ecological appraisal must address control over measures on registration of water intake and water releases; protection of water from contamination, impurity and depletion; and prevention of economic activities that may have a harmful influence on the ecological condition of the water facility and the environment.

The Law on Environmental Protection mandates environmental impact assessments are required for all stages of new developments, both for generation facilities and high voltage transmission lines but measures for protecting nature during construction of medium- and low-voltage power lines are almost non-existent.

However, Kyrgyzstan charges a fee for pollution; the methodology for pollution fees was approved by the government in 2011.

In the oil, gas and coal extraction industries, the level of environmental protection is considered low due to insufficient regulation and legislation. Concern is also mounting over the planned increase in coal mining and the sustainability of the sector. 

Climate change

Kyrgyzstan ratified the UNFCCC in 2000 and the Kyoto Protocol in 2003, though it is not an Annex I or Annex II Party and does not have a specific commitment under the Protocol. In line with UNFCCC requirements, Kyrgyzstan prepared three National Communications in 2004, 2008 and 2016. The country’s energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) totalled 9.5 Mt in 2012, 57.6% less than in 1990. The transport sector accounts for 40.9% of energy-related CO2 emissions, followed by commercial services (including agriculture) at 20.8%, power generation (19.3%), manufacturing (16%), households (2.7%) and other energy industries (0.1%).

In 2013, the document Priority Directions for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Kyrgyz Republic till 2017 was adopted to establish a national resource mobilisation policy and minimise risks to sustainable development. The highest-priority economic sectors requiring adaptation measures were identified as water, agriculture, health, environmental emergencies, forests and biodiversity. Key ministries and agencies prepared sectoral adaptation programmes based on the Priority Directions and including an assessment of the sector’s current state, a vulnerability assessment and justification of adaptation measures, and plans including estimated implementation costs. The first sectoral programme (healthcare) was approved in 2011 and others were approved between April and July 2015. In November 2019 Kyrgyzstan ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change. The State Agency on Environmental Protection and Forestry developed a first draft of the “green economy” document – Concept for Long-term Development of the Kyrgyz Republic with Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions until 2050.

Kyrgyzstan also participates in the Covenant of Mayors programme, an EU initiative to bring together local, regional and national authorities to voluntarily commit to reducing CO2 emissions by at least 20% by 2020 by improving energy efficiency and introducing renewables. Current Signatories are the mayors of the cities of Osh and Talas, and the mayor of Tokmok is likely to join.

Starting in 2014, the Program for Energy Efficient Modernization of Coal-Fired Small Boiler Houses was approved with the aim of making heat supplied by small coal-fired boilers 34% more efficient by 2020. The programme is expected to be listed with the UNFCCC register of affordable actions by developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Technology research, development and deployment

Technology research and development is almost non-existent in Kyrgyzstan: the main reasons for this are a lack of funding (state funding of research institutes under the National Academy of Science is insufficient) and the country’s small market.

The most recent research by the National Academy of Science includes:

  • The development of remote automatic devices for meter reading and data processing by the Institute of Automatics. The project was funded by the state, and the budget reportedly did not exceed KGS 2.5 million (about USD 36.6 thousand at the exchange rate of the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic as of 18 April 2017: USD 1 = KGS 68 2881).
  • The Institute of Natural Resources’ development of technology for making lignite bricks (reportedly funded by a private Korean company, but the amount is unknown).

In addition, with assistance, knowledge transfer and some limited technology deployment, a handful of local small NGOs implemented several pilot projects in renewable energy development. Replication of such projects is minimal or absent.