Belarusian "Energy Club" Session in Brussels

Presentation of recommendation paper at ODB Office

On 30 September -3 October, ODB hosted a study visit for a group of six Belarusian experts in renewable energy sources (RES) and energy efficiency gathering representatives of the National Academy of Sciences, green energy consultancy companies, universities and non-governmental organisations.  The visit took place as part of the Energy Club[1] activities in Minsk.

The visit was organised under the programme "EU and Belarus: Sharing Knowledge" The project aims at transferring and adaptation of best practices employed in the EU in the field of higher education, transport and energy, as well as the most successful implementing experience from the countries of the Eastern Partnership region.
In Brussels, Belarusian experts met with professional associations working in green energy sector, the European Commission’s Directorate on Development and Cooperation (DEVCO), took an excursion tour around the European Renewable Energy House, as well as the leading in Europe engineering company Tractebel, which offers technical solutions for each segment of the energy sector - from atomic power plants to RES.
At the European Biogas Association
Belarusian delegates were received at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). Having started as a small group in 1982, today EWEA has around 700 members from almost 60 countries around the globe being the largest and most powerful wind energy network that witnessed the transformation of wind energy from an “alternative” to a mainstream power source. The organisation had its say in preparing the EU resolution on energy efficiency and renewables (20/20/20) in 2009.
No doubt, the adoption of this document played a key role in boosting the research and development of the EU renewable energy sector. According to Jacopo Moccia, Head of Policy Analysis at EWEA, the organisation's representatives are involved in negotiations of the new targets to be set for the "after 2020 period" to ensure strategic development of the sector. Mr Moccia  gave a brief overview of the European wind power market for Belarusian guests naming main trends and challenges for this industry and its achievements and share in Europe's economy.

Though there are several on-shore wind installations in Belarus, those are  traditionally viewed as part of 'small energy' sources and the sub-sector remains undeveloped as a consequence.
During the EWEA meeting Belarusian experts working towards the increase the RES share in the country's fuel and energy balance were particularly interested in the newest technologies present on the market,  conditions necessary for the sector development in different EU countries (both, environmental and legal), as well as the most reliable producers and leading investors in the area. They also raised the question of possible future Belarus' membership in the EWEA.
At the European Biogas Association the Belarusian delegation received an overview of this sector in the EU – which is also more developed in Belarus if compared to that of the wind energy. In 2013, Belarus has introduced the11th biogas plant to the market. However, many of the existing plants do not operate in their full capacity, or work with interruptions caused by the lack of resources or violation of exploitation rules. Technological failures, the lack of experience in managing such projects, as well as the ways to improve the situation were discussed during the meeting.
Guided tour around the European Renewable Energy House
Belarus' prospective membership in various  European professional associations could have a very positive impact on the implementation of projects as described above. It would further facilitate information exchange between specialists, allow Belarus’ participation in specialised workshops and networking events, ensure the  involvement in different international projects and research programmes, and bring other advantages.

Over the years, ODB has been promoting and facilitating such memberships.  In the framework of the “Sharing Knowledge” ODB increased the capacity of the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers and exposed it to international professional networks. The latter, consequently, concluded two Memoranda of Cooperation with their Lithuanian and Moldovan colleagues, that within one year resulted in a number of joint initiatives.
DG DEVCO of the European Commission informed the Belarusian energy experts of the new opportunities available under the next stage of the Covenant of Majors initiative - the Sustainable Urban Demonstration Project designed to help the signatory cities fulfilling their energy efficiency plans. The project is designed for the whole Eastern partnership  region with the overall budget of 10 million euro.
Presently, only six Belarusian cities have signed the Covenant of Majors and developed their own energy efficiency plans. Their successful participation in the second project phase and the launch of some pilot projects could encourage in other Belarusian cities to join the Covenant of Mayors in the future.

Because contact-making opportunities is one of the most valuable form of assistance Belarusian experts desire, ODB organised for the delegates a meeting at the Europe's engineering giant Tractebel. Representatives of the Tractebel Renewable Energy Department spoke of a wide range of RES technologies employed by the company around the world, including in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Apart from the wide range  of RES solutions, Tractebel has their own technologies of converting  old-fashioned coal power plants into the ones working on bio-fuels thus moving them from grey to green economy zone, provides assessment of investment and exploitation costs of a power plant, offers training courses, and other services. 

At the meeting, EU and Belarusian professionals discussed cooperation prospects. They came to an agreement  that while the RES technologies are in place and constantly improve with regards to their economic efficiency and positive environmental impact, main concern for investors remains connected  to the availability of natural resources and the investment climate in a country, especially long-term guarantees for the so-called green tariffs. 

With all the difficulties experienced  by  companies working in the RES domain,  with the time they become self-sustainable and competitive to the non-renewable sources. Raising awareness and ensuring government support for these programmes have played and continue to have a key role in this process. Since the Belarusian National Energy Security Strategy goals are in line with the objectives of the EU, the country has a unique chance to learn from its experience and chose what strategies and practices could be best applicable in Belarus.
The photo-reports from the visit can be found under the links here and here.

[1] Energy Club is an informal experts' platform that was launched in the end of 2009 with the aim of creating a permanent platform for the discussion of the most pressing challenges facing Belarus’ energy sector, with the participation of both government-affiliated and independent experts from Belarus, the EU and other countries.