Industry news archive

10 September, 2021
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Nuclear power plant light at the end of the tunnel

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Opponents of the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan need to quickly choose a country in which in a few years they will have to buy the missing electricity.

As soon as the issue of the nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan has been translated into a practical plane, the surge of expert opinions and the collision of public passions around how much we need nuclear energy, how dangerous or safe it is, how far our personnel is capable or unbearable, will now only grow.

In our case, in addition to the extremely important energy and economic basis of such a project, it also carries the highest geopolitical burden, which sets the balance of forces and a bundle of partners in the entire Eurasian region for decades to come. And therefore, you must agree, in order to fruitfully argue about the political and somewhere even ideological national choice in connection with the nuclear power plant, the dispute should be based on the same understanding by supporters and opponents of the real materiel - the current state of the electric power industry in Kazakhstan and the challenges it faces.

Let's start from the message of the president, because the task of the government to work out the issue of the development of nuclear energy is associated with the statement that by 2030 there will be a shortage of electricity in Kazakhstan. Let us explain: this will be a shortage of the basic power, it will not be enough even in the unstressed hours of the daily schedule. In addition, this will be the final, paper-based, so to speak, deficit: the real load will be greater than the available capacity of power plants, which is recorded in their readiness passports, and not the one that they are actually capable of issuing.

As for the actual deficit, it has already arrived. Last winter, in the evening hours, it was necessary to buy additional 500-700 MW of power from Russia. Yes, the December maximum then reached only 15.8 GW, while the stocks in the national energy system have more than 18 GW of available capacity, but, as they say, what do we have. Banks are sometimes given paper stress tests. The combat readiness of the Armed Forces is checked at headquarters exercises, which are carried out exclusively on the basis of maps. And only power engineers always have combat stress tests every winter evening, and say thank you that stations aged 40 and older give out a little less than they should give out on paper.

In general, the situation in the electric power industry is like a leisurely movement along a long-laid track, which suddenly came up against the need to lay a new tunnel just in that very year 2030. This means that in addition to the purchase of coal, the cost of travel will now have to include, in addition to the purchase of coal, the salaries of stokers with guides and gifts to the head of the train, the payback of new construction.

For an idea of ​​the ratio of operating and construction tariffs, a specific example: the marginal tariffs for the well-deserved Bukhtarminskaya, Shulbinskaya and Ust-Kamenogorskaya HPPs - from one and a half to three tenge per 1 kWh, and for the brand new Moinakskaya HPP - more than 12 tenge. The difference is the settlement of a Chinese loan. Therefore, it is critically important to build the tunnel in 2030 in such a way as not to waste too much.

Not only that, there is another limitation that we ran into: the Paris Climate Agreement. Kazakhstan has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 15 percent from current ones by 2030. More precisely, the commitments were taken from the 1990 level. But the Kazakhstani energy industry has just reached this level. It turns out that we must get into 2030 by adding at least 4 GW of capacities, of which at least 1 GW is highly maneuverable. In other words, it is necessary to increase the capacity of the power system by more than 20 percent and thus reduce the smoke from the chimneys of power plants by 15 percent.

But the 4 GW increase is the minimum, while the president instructed to work out the use of electricity for the production of hydrogen. And the entry into the era of digitalization, even if it is headed by even the Russian Sberbank, even the Kazakhstani "Halyk", it is better to rely on your own, and not on someone else's electricity.

Renewable energy enthusiasts will exclaim at this point: “RES is the most direct tunnel to a brighter future!” Take your time, renewable energy is another set of limitations. First of all, in terms of money: coal energy is now 7-9 tenge per 1 kWh, and the state-guaranteed purchase price for solar-wind energy is at least three such tariffs. The information is closed, but we can assume: a quarter-half of the tariff for renewable energy sources is real operating costs, another one and a half tariff is the payback for the acquisition and installation of solar panels and wind turbines, and the remaining unit of the tariff with a tail is a commercial bonus to the owners of "green" power plants and those in the Ministry of Ecology who contribute to their promotion.

Let's not forget that Kazakhstan is a developing state, where not a single budgetary market is invested in “green” energy, everything is built on the extraction of private profit for our, consumers, account. Meanwhile, the solvency of the population, SMEs and the entire non-resource economy, which is made an involuntary investor of renewable energy sources, is limited. That is why the “green” tunnel into the energy future will simply rest against the impossibility of continuing without even reaching the middle of the distance.

Yes, where there is to the middle, much earlier. Now the capacity of renewable energy sources is already more than 2 GW, but if we take into account the contribution to the generation, it is half as much, and if we take into account the participation in the peak schedule, the contribution is negative, because the sun sets just before the evening maximum, and the wind does not always blow. The president's message says about plans to add another 2.4 GW for renewable energy. This is a staggering amount, but absolutely not enough to provide the base, let alone the peak, power of the power system.

If we count in terms of construction costs and the resulting tariffs, then all renewable energy sources and maneuverable gas stations duplicating them will have to be added. And if, according to the contribution to the available capacity of the power system, then RES has to be taken with a coefficient of 0.3-0.4. As a result, the additional 4 GW required by 2030, if collected by the sun and wind, will require the installation of renewable energy sources of something under 10 GW. And this is pure fantasy.

Another thing that the tunnel to the future through renewable energy sources rests against is ... emissions. Since solar-wind generation is intermittent, it must be duplicated by maneuverable power. No wonder the message says about a thousand megawatts of new generating capacities in the southern region. Let's decipher: these are gas turbine maneuverable power plants, which are not currently in our energy sector, and they are really necessary. And the more renewable energy sources are available, the more such highly efficient, beautiful and ... expensive installations will be required. We boldly put for them a triple tariff, at least against our usual tariff, and add more ... emissions. Yes, not as fuming as at coal plants, and less carbon monoxide, but still it is in the opposite direction from the Paris Agreement.

This is how cleverly, the disgruntled reader will say, the observer of Vremya, confusing it with arithmetic, deduced that at the end of the tunnel only the nuclear power plant was shining for us. Do not hurry. There are other ways out too. You can simply buy what is missing in Russia. And also - attention! - after the commissioning of a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan, we will have to take energy from there, at least for the sake of fulfilling the Paris quotas. Physically, there are still Soviet electrical connections between all Central Asian states; in fact, the power systems are more cooked in their own juice. But the emergence of the Uzbek nuclear power plant radically changes all such electrical sovereignty. Tashkent has already begun to move towards the status of an energy, and not only, a leader in Central Asia, and opponents of nuclear energy in Kazakhstan have a wide choice on whom we are going to depend more.