Mongolia plans for renewable energy

Mongolia’s recent decision to set up its first commercial wind farm is fueling a public debate that aims to strike the right balance between Mongolia’s near-term and long-term economic development interests, says a report by Pearly Jacob for Eurasia.net. Sparsely inhabited, with vast steppes and ample wind, Mongolia’s potential for harnessing renewable energy is huge. In 2005, the government passed the Renewable Energy Program, mandating that green energy sources account for 20-25 percent of Mongolia’s needs by 2020.

“This is a very ambitious target, but achievable with large scale wind farms and solar power plants,” says N. Enebish, Executive Director of the National Renewable Energy Center. Approximately 2 percent of the country’s power needs are currently met with household solar systems and small hydro-electricity projects. The wind farm could significantly boost this figure, he said.

Newcom Group, the country’s largest Mongolian-owned private mobile telecom provider, is helping finance the USD80-million joint venture with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The project is to be situated on Salkhit Mountain, 78 km south of Ulaanbaatar. Newcom has already signed a power-purchase agreement with the government for the proposed 50-megawatt project. Construction is slated to start in early 2011. “Extensive wind mapping data have shown Mongolia has the wind capacity to generate enough electricity to supply all of China’s electric needs,” says B. Byambasaikhan, head of the Clean Energy Division of Newcom Group, stressing wind’s vast potential.

Mining experts believe the need to exploit Mongolia’s coal resources to generate near-term revenue outweighs the need to focus on expensive renewable energy solutions. “It will be extremely difficult for Mongolia to find alternative energy sources which can come even remotely close to competing with coal as a primary energy source for many years to come,” contends Graeme Hancock, senior mining specialist at the World Bank.

Stakeholders in the Salkhit Wind Farm are under no illusion that renewable resources will replace coal any time soon. “Of course if you’re sitting on the largest untapped coal deposit in the world, it puts the whole renewable energy issue a little in the background,” admits EBRD resident head Philip ter Woort.

Most of Mongolia’s energy needs “will be supplied by coal, there’s no doubt about that. But there is incremental capacity that can be supplied by clean energy sources and that has to be developed for a more sustainable growth,” says Byambasaikhan at Newcom.
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Green activists are concentrating on the big picture. “We’re not looking at short-term goals. We’re very patient,” says Byambasaikhan, who believes that regardless of present day economics, renewable energy is a key part of Mongolia’s future

source: www.news.mn
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