RUSSIA TO PRESENT ALTERNATIVES TO MONGOLIA’S PROPOSED HYDROELECTRIC POWER PLANT
Russia’s natural resources Minister Sergey Donskoy said that Russia will present several alternatives to Mongolia’s proposed hydroelectric power plant on Selenge River at a meeting of a Russian-Mongolian working group in October.
The Russian minister reported this to TASS news agency on the sidelines of the third Eastern Economic Forum, which took place on September 6 and 7.
The Russian government and President Vladimir Putin have repeatedly pushed back on Mongolia’s largest proposed hydropower project on Egiin River near the border between the two countries. Putin stated that the plant's dam would create “serious risks’’ for the water supply in the Irkutsk region.
"The intergovernmental commission’s agenda will definitely include the Selenga HPP issue," Sergei Donskoy said. "Considering the concerns of our Mongolian neighbors regarding electric power deficit, we are ready to suggest them a number of alternatives."
"A working group on Selenga has been formed, and it will convene in early October in Ulaanbaatar, prior to the intergovernmental committee’s meeting due in late October," the minister added.
The proposals will include the modernization of the existing and the construction of new power transmission lines to supply electricity to Mongolia and its transit to China. In this case, the minister said, it will supply Mongolia with power that would be even cheaper than the electricity generated by the hydroelectric power plant.
Among other alternatives, suggested by Donskoi, is the construction of advanced coal-powered thermal power stations and the use of renewable energy sources.
"There are other variants that involve the construction of power generating facilities there. A lot of clean coal technologies are available at the moment, and Mongolia may use its rich coal reserves for the purpose. There is also an option to use alternative energy sources, including solar power. We have our own solar panel production and we can provide them with high-quality solar power generation facilities. Our companies are interested in implementing all these projects," Donskoy said.
"However, in my opinion, the big energy ring is the most realistic project. The thing is that Mongolia is currently launching production at new coal fields. Besides, they are modernizing a railway along which power transmission lines may be laid. Besides, we have excessive power generation capacities in the Far East," the minister added.
TASS reported that earlier, First Deputy Minister of Energy Alexei Teksler told reporters that his ministry considers it reasonable to build electric transmission lines to Mongolia instead of hydroelectric power stations. He noted that the construction of the power transmission line will cost 3.5 times cheaper per MW/h, in comparison with the cost of the construction of a new power generation facility.
One belief among political circles in Mongolia is that Russia is unwilling to let go of its influence on Mongolia, and some believe that Russia is inherently more concerned about the potential effect on Lake Baikal. Some organizations such as The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has raised some concern surrounding the hydroelectric power plan, issuing a report in 2014 saying that the dam would impact endangered species of fish and birds.
The Mongolian government has stayed adamant on its position that the dam will not have adverse effects on the water supply of Lake Baikal. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken a different approach, arguing that since the Eg River does not cross an international border, the issue of the dam is an internal one.
Mongolia currently imports 28.5 million USD worth of electricity from Russia each year.