These findings were brought together in a report by Natalie Koch, associate professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, titled “The geopolitics of spectacle: Space, synecdoche and the new capitals of Asia” and “Critical geographies of sport: Space, power and sport in global perspective.”

Koch elaborated her findings in an interview with The Astana Times, where she explained the dynamics of the renewable energy industry in Kazakhstan. The nation generates nearly 87% of its electricity by hydrocarbon-powered plants, 75% of which are coal-fired stations, and 12% gas-fired plants.

She says, “The remaining 13 percent comes mostly from hydroelectric power stations, with a negligible amount coming from renewable energy sources like solar. However, Kazakhstan’s National Concept for Transition to a Green Economy sets a timeline to move Kazakhstan from under 1 percent renewable energy sourcing, when it was adopted in 2013, to 3 percent by 2020, 30 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050.”

At such a time, the contribution of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) cannot be ruled out as it is Central Asia’s biggest institutional investor with a commitment exceeding $14bn to more than 750 projects. Following the signing of the 2008 Sustainable Energy Action Plan on Investment & Technical Assistance, and the support for the law on supporting the use of Renewable Energy Sources, there has been sustained cooperation between EBRD and Kazakhstan.

“[The law] lacked a regulatory component and a feed-in tariff system. Without this, renewable energy producers could not realistically be expected to compete with traditional fuel supplies, which have long been, and continue to be, aided by artificially low electricity prices thanks to generous state subsidies. With more legislative support from the EBRD, Kazakhstan introduced a new tariff system in 2013, which guarantees a competitive environment for renewable energy producers for 15 years. In addition to exempting renewable energy producers from electricity transportation costs, the same law established the Cost Clearing and Settlement Centre, which centralised the purchase and sale of renewable energy,” said Koch.

In 2014, the country’s first large-scale wind power project in the Yereymentau region was supported with a $70 million loan from the bank and the Clean Technology Fund (CTF). EBRD and CTF also supported Burnoye Solar-1 and Solar-2 in the Zhambyl region with an $80 million loan in 2015 and $44.5 million in 2017. Additional funding was provided by Samruk Kazyna Invest, Samruk Energy and United Green, said The Astana Times report.

There is a clear opportunity present in the sector, which can attract foreign investments as well. Having Kazakhstan as a leader in sustainable energy generation is a way to develop the country’s green capabilities, and set the precedent accordingly in the region.

While the nation’s potential in the sector cannot be overlooked, appropriate legal and infrastructure norms need to be applied to firm up the industry, which can be time-consuming. “Because there are no immediate pressures on Kazakhstan’s current energy system, policymakers are more likely to accept the status quo and defer harder projects to the future,” explained Koch.

Solar remains the nation’s most promising and abundantly available source of energy. Within this as well there are issues such as the maintenance of PV arrays, which is a challenge on water resources for any nation. There are however, water-less cleaning methods being used by firms like First Solar. Secondly, disposing of e-waste is critical to the industry’s longevity and environmental impact. Leaders will have to think long-term, explains Koch.

She also believes the sector can largely benefit from working in close quarters with Chinese solar companies to develop their clean energy capacities, advance technology and apply sustainability practices. This can be possible thanks to the EBRD’s close cooperation with the EU and China, and their heightened interest in Central Asia.

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