The countries of Central Asia (CA) are rich in diverse energy resources such as oil, natural gas and coal, as well as rich in untapped renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower. The region has a great energy potential that can be explored and used. Yet access to basic energy services remains a challenge for the rural population.
The European Union (EU) has launched the new Sustainable Energy Connectivity in Central Asia (SECCA) 2022-2026 project during a roundtable at the EU-Central Asia Connectivity Conference “Global Gateway for Sustainable Development” on November 17, 2022. The event was attended by representatives of government agencies and experts in the field of energy from the countries of Central Asia and the EU. The SECCA project with a total budget of 6.8 million Euros aims to promote a more sustainable energy balance in the Central Asian region in line with EU best practices. In particular, the project aims to strengthen national policies for the transition to a sustainable energy system and increase investment, capacity and awareness in the field of renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) in the region [Eeas.europa.eu, 2022].
Recent events show positive signs of possible sustainable energy ties in Central Asia. Due to economic and population growth, regional electricity demand is expected to increase. Meeting this demand will require significant investment, market reforms and capacity building. Addressing the participants of the round table, Mareta Jager, Deputy General Director at the Directorate General for International Partnerships of EU, noted that this project is guided by the European Green Deal and the new EU Strategy for Central Asia. This document specifically commits to developing the region’s potential in solar, wind and hydropower to contribute to strengthening the region’s energy resilience, helping to achieve its climate goals, as well as creating jobs and business opportunities. Currently, the significant sustainable energy potential of the region is underutilized due to many institutional, financial, technical and social barriers. The SECCA project will serve as a catalyst in removing these barriers and increasing renewable energy production and energy efficiency in the region [Newscentralasia.net, 2022].
Moreover, the SECCA project will also be gender responsive in supporting gender policies and legislation in both EE and RE, as well as promoting the role of women in these areas. As the first project of its kind focused on sustainable energy solutions for the entire Central Asian region, SECCA represents a significant step towards improved energy security, the main pillar of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) strategy [Stantec.com, 2023].
After the implementation of the project, the following results are expected: Strengthening public capacity to manage and develop strategies, gender-responsive policies and regulatory frameworks for the implementation of EE and RE; Raising public awareness of the importance of EE and RE and of EE and RE technologies; Capacity building for energy data, information and modeling management; Improved identification and accessibility of investment projects for EE and RE, using the most appropriate technologies and taking advantage of innovative financing mechanisms.
Through this project, the EU will continue to help effectively address climate change. SECCA will complement 15 EU regional initiatives in the areas of environment, biodiversity, climate change, disaster risk reduction, water resources and sustainable energy, as well as 20 EU bilateral cooperation projects with Central Asian countries.
In 2020, energy demand in CAREC countries was 204 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe), excluding China. By 2030, this number is projected to increase to 254-290 Million toe, or about 32%, with electricity becoming one of the largest sources of consumption. Natural gas consumption in the energy mix is also expected to grow, reflecting its dominant position as a fuel for electricity generation and direct consumption in the residential and industrial sectors. Individual CAREC countries that continue to use outdated energy infrastructure from the Soviet Union are now among the 20 least energy efficient economies in the world. In the electricity sector, energy losses can reach 20%. Power grid upgrades and smart metering will help minimize power losses, reduce countries’ carbon balance, and improve the financial sustainability of energy companies in the region [Kapital.kz, 2023].
In this context, energy cooperation projects between the EU and Central Asian countries will be supported, and the connectivity and relationship between the two actors will be strengthened. While the EU shares its effective experiences in renewable energy, Central Asian countries will try to overcome their deficiencies in renewable energy and develop it thanks to the EU.
For example, journalists from Central Asian countries – winners of the 2020 and 2022 European Union regional competitions for journalists – took part in a week-long study tour to the Netherlands “Renewable Energy – Modern Solutions”. The study tour was organized jointly by two EU projects – “European Union – Central Asia: Cooperation on Water, Environment and Climate Change (WECOOP)” and SECCA – with the aim of learning European and Dutch experience in the implementation of new policies in the renewable energy sector, the production of wind energy, bioenergy and green hydrogen, the introduction of new green technologies, as well as the development of climate-adaptive cities and sustainable building construction [Wecoop.eu, 2022].
8 journalists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan took part in a study tour and visited the Ministry of Economy and Climate of the Netherlands, the Groen Wind Park and the Provincial House in Flevoland, the GIGA Storage Company, the Green Village in Delft, the port of Rotterdam, the project SolarEis in Apeldoorn and AEB, an energy-from-waste company in Amsterdam.
It is worth reminding that in May 2022, the EU adopted a new plan “REPowerEU” for the transition to “green” technologies and scaling up the generation of energy from renewable sources [Comission.europa.eu, 2022]. The Netherlands, along with other EU countries, is taking steps to increase sustainable energy production and find smarter ways to use and save energy. The country’s government plans to set up a 35 billion Euros Climate and Transition Fund to help install the necessary energy infrastructure. According to Oliver Wyman (2022), the Netherlands is leading the energy transition in Europe, and according to Energy Monitor (2022), the Netherlands is at the forefront of the hydrogen race in Europe, thanks to the highest subsidies [Wecoop.eu, 2022].
The WECOOP project (third phase from October 2019 to April 2023) aims to improve environmental, climate change and water policies in Central Asia through its convergence with EU standards, as well as promoting green investments in relevant sectors of the economy in order to help achieve tangible reductions in pollution caused by human activities, including carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Project activities include supporting the EU-CA Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation and its Working Group on Environment and Climate Change, as well as the international dimension of the EU Green Deal in Central Asia to promote climate action [Wecoop.eu, 2022].
Around the world, renewable energy has the dual goal of meeting growing energy demand and decarbonizing the energy supply. Europe, which is at the forefront of renewable energy development, research is focused on the state of energy resources and progress towards renewable energy targets, as well as the effectiveness of policy instruments. The prospects for RES development are viewed positively, as the Central Asian countries are beginning to recognize the need to use RES to meet growing energy demand while striving for sustainable development (eg, reducing CO2 emissions). Kazakhstan is the most active in this regard, but other countries of CA have also adopted some strategies and programs for the further use of renewable energy sources [Laldjibayev, Isaev, Sauhimov, 2022].
In Central Asia, there are barriers such as market failure, market distortions, economic and financial barriers, institutional barriers, technical barriers and social barriers to the introduction of renewable energy. To overcome these barriers, CA governments can start by recognizing the existence of such barriers and taking steps to remove them. In fact, each described barrier also points to ways to eliminate it. Removing these barriers will help the Central Asian countries achieve a higher level of energy security by diversifying energy sources, providing access to them to more people and greening energy supply. In this context, this kind of cooperation with the EU, one of the leading actors in the renewable energy sector, can be considered as a good opportunity for Central Asian countries to remove these obstacles and for the rapid development of the renewable energy sector.
Comission.europa.eu (2022). RePowerEU: Affordable, Secure and Sustainable Energy for Europe. Retrieved from https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/repowereu-affordable-secure-and-sustainable-energy-europe_en. Accessed on 05.03.2023.
Eeas.europe.eu (2022). European Union’s new project to boost sustainable energy in Central Asia. Retrieved from https://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/kazakhstan/european-union%E2%80%99s-new-project-boost-sustainable-energy-central-asia_en?s=222. Accessed on 05.03.2023.
Kapital.kz (2023). Five facts about the future of energy in Central Asia. Retrieved from https://kapital.kz/economic/112079/pyat-faktov-o-budushchem-energetiki-v-tsentral-noy-azii.html. Accessed on 11.03.2023.
Laldjibayev M., Isaev R., Sauhimov A. (2022). Renewable energy sources in Central Asia: Potential, use, prospects and barriers. Retrieved from https://ucentralasia.org/media/ucflputa/uca-ippa-wp71vozobnovlyaemie-istochnikirus.pdf. Accessed on 10.03.2023.
Newscentralasia.net (2022). A new European Union project for the development of sustainable energy in Central Asia has been launched. Retrieved from https://www.newscentralasia.net/2022/11/18/zapushchen-novyy-proyekt-yevropeyskogo-soyuza-po-razvitiyu-ustoychivoy-energetiki-v-tsentralnoy-azii/. Accessed on 05.03.2023.
Stantec.com (2023). Sustainable Energy Connectivity in Central Asia (SECCA). Retrieved from https://www.stantec.com/en/projects/belgium-projects/sustainable-energy-connectivity-in-central-asia-secca. Accessed on 05.03.2023.
Wecoop.eu (2022). Journalists from Central Asia studied European experience in the field of renewable energy in the Netherlands. Retrieved from https://wecoop.eu/ru/journalists-learnt-european-experience-on-re/. Accessed on 05.03.2023.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy
Kanapiyanova Zhuldyz was born on 26th of December, 1986. She graduated from high school in 2004 and the same year she admitted to International Relations faculty of Abay Kazakh National Pedagogical University. In the same year she admitted to Ege University (Turkey, Izmir) to make a master degree. She graduated from International Relations Department with knowledge of a foreign language in 2012. Her dissertation theme is “Globalization and International Nuclear Politics”. Now she was a research fellow in the Eurasian Research Institute at Khoca Akhmet Yassawi Kazakh-Turkish International Unive