By Ofeliya Afandiyeva
The development of renewable energy sources is a priority in Azerbaijan and major progress has been made in recent years to increase the production of alternative energy sources in the country, expert on energy, PhD in International Relations Emin Akhundzade has said in an interview with Azernews.
Solar and wind energy
Touching upon Azerbaijan’s renewable energy potential, the expert stated that sunny days in Azerbaijan vary between 2500-3200 hours per year, which can be highly evaluated for power generation.
“Over the past five years, the production volume of solar power plants increased by 15 times, from 2.9 million kWh to 42.3 million kWh.”.
He also spoke about the country’s potential in wind energy.
“Absheron peninsula is distinguished with its massive wind potential, with an average annual wind speed of 8.6 m/s. According to calculations, Azerbaijan’s annual wind energy capacity reaches about 800 MW. In other words, it implies that Azerbaijan’s wind energy potential is able to produce 2.4 billion kWh of electricity per year”.
Wind energy production in Azerbaijan has increased 46 times over the past 5 years, from 2.3 million kWh to 106.2 million kWh, which just last year rose to 85 percent, Akhundzade said. However, despite this fact, only 8 percent of electricity in Azerbaijan is currently generated from alternative sources of energy and is projected to reach 30 percent by 2030.
“The activity of the Yeni Yashma Wind Energy Park is crucial in terms of the alternative energy market. Creation of such parks will contribute to provide sustainable energy supply in Azerbaijan, increasing export revenues and improving the environmental situation in the country. Last year, the park produced approximately 90 million kWh of electricity, which would save 30 million m3 of natural gas per year”.
He stressed the importance of the creation of a special Training and Education Center on Renewable Energy in the Park. This, in turn, promotes the training of highly qualified staff. “This investment in human capital will lay the groundwork for the rapid development of an alternative energy sector in Azerbaijan in the future,” Akhundzade pointed out.
Furthermore, the expert said that the development of the agricultural industry in Azerbaijan opens up broad opportunities for the production of biomass energy. “In this regard, cooperation between SOCAR and SNAM on the development of renewable gas and sustainable energy use is crucial for the development of biogas and biomethane production,” he stated.
Akhundzade said that alternative energy’s role in Azerbaijan’s economy is twofold: “Firstly, it is necessary to diversify primary energy consumption in terms of energy security. This, in turn, reduces dependence on fossil fuels. At the same time, as in the world, in Azerbaijan also the main source of electricity production is natural. With the increase in production of alternative energy, the consumption of natural gas can be reduced in the country. The saved natural gas can be used as a raw material in the industry, or can be exported, which in turn will increase the export revenues of the country”.
“I would like to point out that at present SOCAR Methanol and SOCAR Carbamide plants use natural gas as raw material. As an example, when the natural gas is processed and produced urea, its value becomes doubled. In other words, conserved natural gas can create added value in industry. In this regard, I consider that the contract between Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power Company and the UAE's Masdar Company on the construction of solar power plant and wind farm is noteworthy,” he told.
Describing the benefits of the alternative energy sector, Akhundzade said that first of all, it is important that Azerbaijan attracts foreign investment in the renewable energy, along with the traditional energy sector. About $ 400 million will be invested in this area: “This, in turn, will contribute to revival in the real sector, the development of employment, and in the future will pave the way for implementation of new projects. At the same time, the new stations will produce 1.4 billion kWh of electricity annually, which will save 470 million m3 of natural gas per year. This is more than the annual natural gas demand of the SOCAR Carbamide plant”.
“Along with it, the transportation capacity of TANAP and TAP pipelines are expected to double in the future. For this purpose, additional gas volumes are necessary. Moreover, the full operation of the Southern Gas Corridor means raising direct revenues for Azerbaijan. Because we involve as a key player in each of the 4 components of this project, and as an operator in TANAP. Therefore, the more gas is transported through this corridor, the more Azerbaijan will benefit from both gas sales and transportation,” he stressed.
The expert also drew attention to fertilizers and told that biogas is obtained mainly by the use of chicken manure, which is considered unsuitable for agriculture as it causes salinity in the soil: “However, this fertilizer can be economically useful by turning it into biogas. At the same time, when producing biogas, it is also possible to obtain fertilizers that can substitute for chemical fertilizers and can be used as additional fertilizers. This, in turn, may contribute to the increase of soil fertility in agriculture and plant disease resistance”.
Azerbaijan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2030 in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, the expert reminded. As renewable energy is environmentally friendly, it will also contribute significantly to the fulfillment of Azerbaijan's commitments in compliance with the Paris Agreement as well as to improve the ecological situation in the country.
“The development of the non-oil sector, diversification of exports and increased employment are of vital importance in terms of sustainable economic development of our country. In this context, I think that the development of an alternative energy sector can bring many opportunities for Azerbaijan,” he pointed out.
Furthermore, Akhundzade emphasized expanding scope of renewable energy sector in Europe: “I would like to underline that today, 11 million people worldwide work in the alternative energy sector. In the European Union alone, the figure is 1.2 million. One of the most substantial reasons for the rapid growth of alternative energy production in the EU in recent years is related to the impetus for the development of SMEs and the creation of new jobs. In Germany alone, about 300,000 people work in this sector. Germany, by producing solar panels and wind turbines, also produces renewable energy at a lower cost, and boosts its economy by selling these equipment to foreign countries”.
Renewables’ role in SME’s
Akhundzade said that alternative energy sources have the potential to develop Small and Medium-Size Enterprises (SMEs) in Azerbaijan.
“Most of the countries around Azerbaijan are heavily dependent on oil and natural gas consumption. Even in some countries, the share of natural gas in the total primary energy consumption is 85 percent. These countries are interested in reducing their dependence on oil and natural gas by using alternative energy sources over the medium and long term. Thus, by manufacturing devices for solar and wind energy production, Azerbaijan can make alternative energy production more efficient inside the country and increase its export revenues by selling to foreign countries. All this, in turn, will enable the development of SMEs in the country, diversification of economy and increase in employment,” he uttered.
The expert underlined that although Azerbaijan is rich in oil and gas resources, it is commendable to encourage the use of alternative sources of energy in the country and the steps taken in this direction.
“In recent years, the development of technology has made it possible to produce alternative energy production more efficiently. The International Energy Agency estimates that in the next five years, the cost of alternative energy technology to reduce by 35 percentage. This, in turn, will increase the production of alternative energy by 50 percent over the next 5 years. It is estimated that if the share of alternative energy in global energy consumption doubles, this will increase global GDP by $ 1.3 trillion. Thus, we can take more advantage of this opportunity and rapidly expand the alternative energy market in Azerbaijan,” the expert highlighted.
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