How to develop projects, initiatives and ideas to build resilient energy systems in Central Asia? This was the focus of the 2nd Almaty Energy Forum, held from 14-16 November at the Kazakh-British Technical University. The Forum, a joint effort of four UN organizations – Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – aimed to stimulate innovation and attract investment for projects that deliver on net-zero and increase efficiency, affordability, and resilience of the energy system.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the energy transition. What we all share is a people-centred approach that must lead to net-zero societies. The energy crisis should be taken as an opportunity to decrease reliance on fossil fuel and at the same enhance energy security. For every country this entails different steps but includes long-term energy planning, reforming the energy market, investing in locally-generated clean energy sources, upgrading the power grid, and increasing energy efficiency” – said Mr. Haoliang Xu, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.
“Resilient energy systems are based on three pillars: i) Energy security – providing the energy required for economic development; ii) Affordability – ensuring the quality and affordability access to all energy services; iii) Environmental sustainability – reducing energy system’s carbon footprint and supporting climate change mitigation efforts. Delivering a resilient energy system, however, is complex. All low- and zero-carbon technologies will need to play a role” – said Mr. Dmitry Mariyasin, UNECE Deputy Executive Secretary.
The Almaty Energy Forum showed that Central Asia’s vast renewable resource potential can be used to its full potential by implementing forward looking, innovative policies, well-designed educational programmes, and partnerships with the private sector.
On Monday the Forum discussed hydrogen development in a realistic context. Central Asia has plentiful resources of renewable energy that can - and should - be developed as rapidly as possible. There is a need to address the issue of intermittency. Hydrogen could be adopted, particularly in places where other solutions such as pumped storage are simply not feasible or, in the case of large-scale battery storage, are too expensive. However, participants stressed that the scarcity of water supplies was as key factor hindering hydrogen development.
Tuesday’s discussions on the nexus between water, energy and the environment focused on the need for cooperation and the mechanisms to put in practice.
On the third day, discussions addressed energy connectivity. First, electricity trade in Central Asia slowly increased in past years and reached 10.4 billion kWh in 2021. However, increasing it further will require strengthening grid infrastructure and institutional platforms. These platforms could facilitate the development of multilateral trade agreements, to move away from the bilateral ones that currently dominate in Central Asia. Participants also stressed the need to increase the quality of data exchanged between countries to support cooperation on the development of electricity projects.