INTERVIEW. ARMAN KASHKINBEKOV ON CHALLENGES AND TRENDS IN THE ENERGY SECTOR OF KAZAKHSTAN
Arman Kashkinbekov was born in 1977. In 1998 he graduated from the Karaganda State University named after E.A. Buketov. In the same year, he enrolled in the master's degree program "Bolashak" at Vanderbilt University, USA. He has extensive work experience in domestic and foreign companies. He began his career in 1998 at Vanderbilt University, USA, as a researcher and media analyst.
At the moment, Arman Kairberlievich is the President of JSC "National Center for State Scientific and Technical Expertise"
Please tell us a little about yourself, especially about your career path in the energy sector
I have been working in the energy sector for many years, including traditional and new, renewable and alternative. Last year I was awarded the title of Honorary Energy Engineer of Kazakhstan for my contribution to the development of the industry. For more than 8 years I have been one of the leaders in the renewable energy sector, co-founder and Honorary Director, Member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Renewable Energy of Kazakhstan. For more than 5 years I have been an independent member of the Board of Directors of Energoortalyk JSC (ERG), for about 2 years - an independent member of the Board of Directors of Samruk-Energo JSC, for more than 8 years - a member of the Energy Committee of Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs. I worked for 3 years as a member of the National Scientific Council for Energy and Mechanical Engineering. Thus, I am a highly qualified expert and manager in the energy sector. Currently, I am working as the Chairman of the Board of National Center for State Scientific and Technical Expertise JSC, and I would like to note that in the field of scientific and technological developments, the energy industry is a clear leader.
What experience do you think has been decisive for you as an industry professional? (without which you would not succeed as a professional)
I think that without Association of Renewable Energy of Kazakhstan I would not have succeeded as an energy professional, because I was the General Director since 2015, long before the EXPO, when few people believed in green energy, and I said, the majority was against it. Now, in 2023, the majority of key specialists and analysts support the development of new energy, understanding the importance of the country’s sustainable development and ensuring energy security in the future.
What challenges and trends are observed in the energy sector in Kazakhstan at present?
I believe that the biggest and most important task facing the country in the energy sector now is to ensure the stable development of the industry in the current historical period, as well as in the future. The existing key energy assets are outdated and require immediate renewal and modernization, the development of clean technologies, gasification, the use of storage systems and hydrogen production. Then Kazakhstan will be able not to remain on the sidelines of the world energy revolution that is taking place now, but to take its rightful place among the global leaders, which it currently is. To summarize, we need a specific energy development program for the coming decades. But we need not only a program, but also a clear plan for its implementation and control.
What is hindering the development of the industry today?
I believe that now there are no big problems for the development of the industry. The Ministry of Energy and the minister himself are great professionals in their field, and are taking all necessary actions to solve the tactical and strategic problems facing the energy sector. However, I would like to see the further sustainable development of renewable and alternative energy sources, storage systems, as well as gas generation, fortunately we have enough gas, but we need to think about using the resources of the giant Karachaganak for our own needs and industrial needs.
What are the plans to modernize and expand the energy infrastructure in Kazakhstan and how feasible are they?
Plans to modernize and expand the energy infrastructure in Kazakhstan include the launch of a large Tariff as Exchange for Investments program to update fixed assets in the energy sector, launch new production facilities, and develop renewable energy sources. I think that all the plans of the Ministry of Energy are quite feasible, but daily meticulous work is required.
What combination of energy generation sources would be ideal for Kazakhstan?
I think that the combination of Renewable energy sources + Hydrogen + Electricity storage systems + Gas generation + Small and medium-power nuclear reactors (new safe format) = can become an effective mechanism for Kazakhstan’s energy sector in the future. We shouldn’t forget about clean coal technologies. Fortunately, we still have reserves of it for many centuries.
As of the end of 2022, the share of renewable ebbbbnergy generation in the Republic of Kazakhstan amounted to 4.5%. How soon can we expect growth in this direction?
I believe that the renewable energy sources industry in Kazakhstan is developing steadily and sustainably. We do not run after any of the leaders, trying to catch up or be in advance, we go our own way. Yes, at the end of 2022 the share was 4.5%. There is a concept for the transition to a green economy, there is a strategy for low-carbon development, a law to support renewable energy sources, a bill draft is planned for the development of alternative types (hydrogen, industrial gases, gas methane from coal seams in the Karaganda coal basin). Thus, the regulatory framework has been formed and will continue to adapt to changes and new requirements. Renewable energy sources will play a key role in ensuring the country’s energy security in the future. We need a large national program for the development of renewable and alternative energy. All our neighbors on our perimeter have already developed and are implementing it.
What opportunities exist for the development of alternative energy sources in Kazakhstan?
For the development of renewable energy sources, there is a legal framework, unique conditions for investment, priority in payments from the RFC, support from the government and the Head of State. What can be improved? Focus on localization, that is, goods, works and services made in Kazakhstan, training of domestic personnel, creating joint productions. This is a critical factor for the successful development of renewable energy, and I am glad that I was one of the few who spoke about this back during the Astana EXPO 2017 international exhibition.
The development of the electric power industry of which countries could serve as an approximate model of development for Kazakhstan?
Kazakhstan follows its own path of energy development. Of course, the experience of advanced, developed countries is very useful to us, but each state has its own national characteristics and criteria. Our country is a clear leader in the Central Asian region, and we must remain so in the future. Allah has given us inexhaustible natural and energy resources, and we must use them for the benefit of the entire nation.