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.

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