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Kazakhstan Signals U-Turn on Alternative Energy

Kazakhstan Signals U-Turn  on Alternative EnergyKazakhstan Signals U-Turn  on Alternative Energy

From small villages to big cities, wherever you go in Kazakhstan these days, billboards offer reminders that Astana is gearing up to host Expo 2017, the next World’s Fair. Kazakhstan helped secure the right to host the event with a pledge to emphasize green energy alternatives. But now it appears that the country is red-lighting its own green transition, EurasiaNet reported.

Green energy has been the rage in Kazakhstan in recent years, but the country’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, seemed to shift gears out of the blue in late September.

“I personally do not believe in alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar,” Russian news agency Interfax quoted Nazarbayev as saying during a meeting with Vladimir Putin in the Caspian city of Atyrau. Echoing a familiar Kremlin refrain, Nazarbayev added that “the shale euphoria does not make any sense.”

Last year, Nazarbayev’s office pledged to spend 1 percent of GDP, or an estimated $3-4 billion annually, to “transition to a green economy.”

“Kazakhstan is facing a situation where its natural resources and environment are seriously deteriorating across all crucial environmental standards,” stated a widely touted “Strategy Kazakhstan 2050” concept paper. While Kazakhstan generates 80 percent of its electricity from coal, state media has trumpeted the potential of green energy, showing Nazarbayev touring a solar-panel factory under construction or an official promising Kazakhstan will build the world’s first “energy-positive” city.

Ultimately, if Nazarbayev wants to fulfill a pledge to make Kazakhstan a middle-income nation by 2030, experts have acknowledged that Kazakhstan needs to diversify its energy sources.

Nazarbayev’s comments have left analysts perplexed; Is Kazakhstan’s focus shifting, or was Nazarbayev just reminding trade partners – especially Russia – that oil and gas will remain a priority for Astana? Nazarbayev concluded by saying that “oil and gas is our main horse, and we should not be afraid that these are fossil fuels.”

The energy networks of Kazakhstan and Russia are strongly interconnected. Most Kazakh oil exports to Europe go through the Russian hubs of Samara and Novorossiysk, while Russian oil flows through Kazakhstan’s pipeline network to China.

Financialtribune.com