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Brussels conference reviews developing role of renewable energy sources in Central Asia

Organized by the Brussels Energy Club, an international conference titled A Clean Energy Future for Central Asia: Building New Partnerships for the Energy Transition in a Rapidly Growing Region was held in the European Union’s capital city.

The event, held in a hybrid format, was attended by the heads of diplomatic missions of the five Central Asian states, representatives of their state agencies, leading EU institutions, major energy companies, industry associations, think-tanks and the media.

In his welcoming remarks, Head of the Mission of Kazakhstan in the EU Margulan Baimukhan emphasised our country’s commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the commitment voiced by President of Kazakhstan to achieve decarbonisation by 2060. The Ambassador highlighted the need for greater investments both from the region’s countries and also international donor organizations towards the structural transformation of the energy sector in the region.

Recalling the agreement on strategic partnership in the field of critical materials signed last year between Kazakhstan and the EU and the recent adoption of the road map for its implementation, the Kazakh diplomat stressed the EU plan for large-scale renovation of the energy sector REPowerEU envisages the import of up to 10 million tons of green hydrogen by 2030 and that Kazakhstan already has specific arrangements with European partners for its production in the Mangistau region for subsequent delivery to EU markets.

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“Our shared goal is a fair and just energy transition for the entire Central Asian region. It is our strong belief is that closer regional energy cooperation among all Central Asian countries, considering their diverse energy sources, will strengthen the efforts of each country and the EU,” said Ambassador Baimukhan.

Tomas Zdechovsky, Member of the European Parliament and new Chair of the Delegation for cooperation with countries of Central Asia and Mongolia, said economic and demographic growth in the region leads to a significant increase in energy consumption there. He said
international partners in the region, including the EU and the European Investment Bank can support their efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. He also called the introduction of energy efficient approaches, the modernization of the existing infrastructure and the development of renewable energy the key areas of cooperation in this area in the coming years.

“As a chair of the parliamentary delegation I welcome the adoption of the special road map for the implementation of the memorandum of understanding on strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and the EU on critical materials, batteries and renewable green hydrogen value chains. The roadmap creates the conditions for financial and technological cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU and it will spill over the entire region,” the MEP said.

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EU Special Representative for Central Asia Terhi Hakala believes the region is already facing the negative consequences of climate change, which increases the urgency of the task to modernize the energy sector in its countries. In this regard, this topic featured on the agenda of the Second Meeting between the leaders of Central Asia and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, held in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, on June 2, 2023.

“Under the Team Europe initiative on water, energy and climate change, we have combined 700 million euros in ongoing and newly adopted projects and investments in the region… I assure you that the European Union is dedicated to supporting the countries of Central Asia in the transition towards a green and sustainable future. And I trust today’s discussions and deliberations will highlight and bring forward important activities and developments,” she stressed.

Ambassadors and representatives of relevant state agencies, public companies and think tanks of the Central Asian states presented country-specific approaches to the development of energy systems in the region and a consistent increase in the share of renewable energy sources in them. Together with representatives of EU agencies, international financial and donor institutions, private sector companies and think tanks they discussed the formation of new approaches to developing the energy sector and attracting local and foreign investments into it.

Various aspects of the development of the green energy industry in Kazakhstan were presented online by Aliya Shalabekova, Director of the Low-Carbon Development Department of JSC NC KazMunayGas, Daulet Zhakupov, Senior Engineer of KMG Engineering LLC Hydrogen R&D centre, and Ainur Tumysheva, Regional Representative of SVEVIND Energy Gmbh.

At the same time, Nurlan Kapenov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of QazaqGreen RES Association, underlined in his speech in 2018 Kazakhstan introduced a system of auctions, in which international companies could participate. “To date, 200 companies from 13 countries have taken part in these auctions, resulting in 130 renewable energy projects with a total of 2.5 Gigawatt of installed capacity,” he said. He also recalled Kazakhstan has set a goal to reach 15% of renewables in its energy balance by 2030, 50% by 2050 and 80% by 2060.

Among the challenges, the expert called the lack of flexible capacities in Kazakhstan for balancing energy produced by renewable sources. In his opinion, the best solution was to build a transnational energy grid with Central Asian countries.

Along with the accumulated positive experience and the prospects for expanding the share of renewables in the energy balance of Central Asia, the conference participants also drew attention to the common challenges for the region associated with the extensive exhaustion of the energy infrastructure inherited from the Soviet era, the complex nature of the problems of rising tariffs for consumers, the need for a coordinated approach and actions in the region to address emerging issues.

As a result of the discussion, the demand for joint discussion of renewable energy development in the region and regular exchange of experience in this area was noted. The organizers of the conference intend to continue the practice of holding similar events with interested participants from the EU and Central Asia.

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