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The Republic of Belarus lacks raw fuel and energy resources in sufficient volumes to satisfy its needs, requiring that natural gas be imported from the Russian Federation. Most electric heating stations in the Republic use natural gas, as do industrial enterprises, consuming it as fuel, and for other purposes. Domestic households also use natural gas, for heating and cooking, as became the norm during Soviet times, when natural gas was the most economically feasible and ecologically ‘pure’ choice (over coal, peat and residual oil).

 

Recent decades have seen renewable energy sources rise in usage in Belarus: hydro, wind and solar energy, biogas, and local fuels, such as firewood, waste wood and peat.

 

Natural gas

 

Natural gas comes to the Republic of Belarus from the north-western Siberian regions of the Russian Federation, along gas pipelines. Annual volumes of consumption vary from 19 to 21 billion cubic metres, placing Belarus in the top ten natural gas importing countries worldwide.

Natural gas is distributed to consumers through a system of gas pipelines governed by the state production association for fuel and gasification, Beltopgas, under the Energy Ministry of the Republic of Belarus.

 

All 118 districts have access to gas, and all 113 cities enjoy gas usage, alongside eighty urban-type settlements (out of eighty-one), seven out of eight workers’ settlements and 2,770 (out of 23,468) rural settlements (11.8 percent).

 

The natural gas network in Belarus covers around 55,100km, including more than 30,200km in rural areas. Liquefied gas pipelines cover 217,100km, including 213,500km in rural areas (or 98.3 percent). Over 2.7 million flats have access to natural gas and more than 1 million flats have liquefied gas. Flats provided with natural gas account for 72.1 percent of the total number of flats using gas, placing Belarus among the most advanced countries for its level of gasification.

 

Peat

 

Belarus is ranked third globally for extraction of peat, which is located countrywide.

 

The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus states that the Republic boasts around 9,000 peat fields, covering a total area of 2.4 million hectares, estimated at 4 billion tonnes. However, for reasons of economic feasibility, and the wish to protect the eco-system, not all can be dug industrially.

 

With the aim of harmonising the use of agricultural lands and forest areas, and regulating the use of peat deposits, the NAS of Belarus has joined the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Energy in cataloguing peatlands, to determine their application. The inventory will be used to create a strategy of preservation and usage.

 

The Republic’s peat industry is more than a hundred years old, as the first industrial development of peat began in 1896. Until 1960, peat remained the major fuel within Belarus, used by most power stations. Construction and commissioning of briquette plants in the 1960s enabled volumes of briquette production to be increased to 2.412 million tonnes by 1974: a record figure for the peat industry in the Republic. Maximum peat extraction was reached in 1974, at 16.8 million tonnes (including 9.1 million tonnes of fuel and 7.7 million tonnes for agricultural needs).

 

Since the 1970s, the Republic’s power engineering facilities and population have been gradually shifting from peat to using gas and residual oil. Peat fuel has been systematically excluded from the heat power industry. By 1986, it was no longer being burnt at power stations and heat electric stations. This resulted in reduced peat extraction volumes and briquette production. In 2011, these figures stood at 2.0 and 1.1 million tonnes respectively.

 

The Energy Ministry is currently overseeing forty-four peat deposits, covering 17,200 hectares (0.72 percent of the total area of peat deposits) and releasing 33.2 million tonnes (0.84 percent of total peat deposits in the Republic).

 

Peat is now a minority local fuel resource in the Republic of Belarus, accounting for around 15 percent of total fuel and energy resources, and just 2-3 percent of the Republic’s energy balance. However, the use of peat allows us to save on the import of up to 590 million cubic metres of natural gas, worth US$107.7 million.

 

Local peat fuel is much cheaper than imported natural gas. For every tonne of reference fuel equivalent, fuel briquettes are 2.6 times cheaper than natural gas, while fuel peat is four times cheaper. Peat briquettes, manufactured from peat, are relied upon in more remote settlements, being used by community buildings and supplying more than 200,000 households.

 

In total, around a million residents receive heat and electricity from peat. The Energy Ministry is constantly working to raise peat application in the Republic, and seeking export markets for its peat.

 

State cadastre of renewable energy sources (RES)

The state cadastre of renewable energy sources (RES) includes information on the ‘alternative’ energy potential of the Republic and the efficiency of RES. It enables legal entities and individual entrepreneurs (RES owners) to enter and update information on their existing sites and facilities for the use of RES, as well as to receive electronic certification, confirming the origin of energy supplies.

 

According to the cadastre, 232 units using renewable energy are currently operational, with a capacity of 288.9MW. A significant share of facilities (156) use wood and other types of biomass, as well as natural water flow (38).

 

Regarding renewable energy in the Republic, fourteen facilities produce solar energy, while another fourteen create biogas, seven produce wind energy and three utilise geothermal energy.

 

RES facilities save more than 313,602.552 reference fuel per year.

 

The cadastre database also contains information on:

  • sites for possible location of RES units, with a capacity of more than 200kW (based on information taken from existing state programmes);
  • actual sites being used for RES;
  • producers of energy from RES (in terms of administrative-territorial units of the Republic of Belarus);
  • types of RES and the maximum possible amount of energy produced annually from these units;
  • the capacity of RES units and their annual output of heat and electricity.

 

Investments into the renewable energy sector of Belarus

 

In line with legislation, RES energy producers have the right to:

  • guaranteed connection to state energy networks;
  • guaranteed acquisition of RES energy by state energy-supplying organisations, with payment in line with promotional tariffs (in terms of payment for electricity);
  • protection against unfair competition, including on the part of legal entities with a dominant position in the sphere of energy production;
  • expansion (reconstruction, modernisation) of RES units;
  • individual identification of sites for possible allocation of RES units.

 

Significant benefits and preferences for investors include:

  • exemption of RES units from VAT (upon importation into the territory of the Republic of Belarus); and
  • land plots occupied by RES facilities and units being exempt from land tax.

Favourable factors for investment in this sphere include a high level of coverage by state-owned energy networks, and a significant energy consumer base, including heavy industries.