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Ukraine hopes renewables can curb dependence on Russian gas

04.21.2014  | 

US and European officials have been searching for ways to help Ukraine limit this dependence on Russian gas, including expediting US approvals of facilities to export liquefied natural gas (LNG).



Seeking to lessen its dependence on Russian natural gas, Ukraine is trying to lure investment to boost its use of renewable energy such as biomass, wind and solar power.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington today hosted US and industry officials at a conference on the potential for renewable energy in the eastern European nation.

“I strongly believe the time has come for US investors to discover Ukraine, especially its energy,” said Olexander Motsyk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the US.

Ukraine relies on Russian natural gas for heat and electric power, a supply put at risk by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region last month. US and European officials have been searching for ways to help Ukraine limit this dependence, including expediting US approvals of facilities to export liquefied natural gas (LNG).

One way to replace Russian gas is through home-grown renewable energy production, according to Ukrainian officials. Energy sources such as biomass, wind and solar currently provide about 2% of Ukraine’s power-generating capacity.

Motsyk said the US and 28-nation EU should consider strategic partnerships to invest in the country, while acknowledging the inherent risk, given the economic and security climate.

“Road Show”

The event is the start of a “road show” to highlight Ukraine’s renewable-energy potential, Volodymyr Shalkivski, the embassy’s first secretary for energy issues, said in an interview. Future events would be held at Ukraine’s consulates in Chicago, New York and San Francisco, he said, without providing dates.

“The resources are there,” though a major challenge is attracting capital, Todd Foley, senior vice president for policy and government relations at the American Council on Renewable Energy, said at the conference. The Washington-based nonprofit group co-hosted the event, along with the Energy Industry Research Center, a Kiev-based consultancy.

According to the research center, biomass and biogas are the most promising forms of renewable energy for Ukraine, in part because the nation’s network of electric-power lines and substations can’t easily adjust to the addition of significant amounts of wind and solar energy.

Research Center

Biomass may help replace natural gas used in the nation’s 24,000 boiler plants, officials from the Energy Industry Research Center said.

Vadym Glamazdin, the center’s managing director, said Ukraine is seeking strategic partnerships with U.S. businesses, though it hasn’t identified potential companies. Babcock & Wilcox of Charlotte, North Carolina, and closely held Hurst Boiler & Welding of Coolidge, Georgia, are among companies that make boilers.

Glamazdin said Ukraine’s heating supply accounts for about 40% of all gas imported from Russia, which could be replaced with renewable energy within three to five years.

By 2030, renewables could account for about 15% of Ukraine’s electricity supply with adequate investment, he said.

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