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Moscow Times
July 10, 2009
Kudrin Promises Energy Revolution
By Maria Antonova / The Moscow Times

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin on Thursday promised a Russian energy revolution this fall when the State Duma considers a bill to make the country 40 percent more efficient in its power use by 2020. President Dmitry Medvedev, who first made the ambitious pledge last summer based on 2007 energy usage, was attending a Group of Eight summit in Italy that included talks on energy efficiency on Thursday.

Russias first draft of the legislation was sent back to the Economic Development Ministry in December after complaints of vague wording. Medvedev threw his weight behind the initiative again last week, calling for a switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and eliminating a black hole for energy: poorly built housing.

Kudrin told an economic conference in Ulan-Ude that the bill, to be introduced in September and implemented this year, will include tax incentives to modernize an economy that still consumes three times more energy per production unit than the European Union.

Provided the government continues to be energetic in pushing this issue forward, it could meet the 40 percent target, said Igor Bashmakov, who heads the Center for Energy Efficiency and was one of the experts who advised the government on the revised bill.

He said one of the mechanisms outlines a plan to reduce energy consumption per square meter by 15 percent in five years for Russias notoriously drafty apartment buildings.

The drive for energy efficiency spearheaded by the Economic Development Ministry has been more of a long-term economic interest than an environmental concern.

Arkady Dvorkovich, Medvedevs top economic adviser, on Wednesday turned a cold shoulder to a G8 initiative to lower greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, citing in part his countrys drive to boost efficiency.

He said the target was not acceptable or attainable, because it would hinder our economic growth, adding that Russias carbon emissions were already 30 percent lower than in the benchmark year 1990.

The issue has been a wedge between developed and developing economies, with some arguing that the West was able to grow for decades unhindered by such environmental restrictions. Others contend that developing economies could benefit from the reductions.

Carbon emission reductions will not limit industrial growth, Vladimir Chuprov, head of Greenpeaces energy program in Russia, said in a statement Thursday. Its a dangerous misconception. Switching from carbon fuel to a new energy model will make our economy more competitive.

Russias 1990 emissions were extremely high because of the command economy, reliance on coal, factories operating at partial capacity, and poor technology.

The economy now is structurally different, Bashmakov said. If we continue improving efficiency, it would be possible to keep emissions 35 percent below 1990 levels in 2050 even with a growing economy, he said, adding that the economy was too undeveloped to make bigger reductions likely.

By Copenhagen, [emissions] will be 40 percent lower because of the economic downturn, he said.

The UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, is expected to establish a new global climate agreement in December to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Russias inefficient use of resources has become all the more apparent since the economic downturn, as industry continues to pay full energy bills despite cutting output.

Were a major energy supplier, but that doesnt mean we can mindlessly burn our energy resources, Medvedev said last week.

Following the presidents critique of the housing sector, Mayor Yury Luzhkov no stranger to innovative, and sometimes dubious, urban-planning initiatives jumped behind the measure at a City Hall meeting.

Heat losses were incredible this winter. We heated the winter air, raising the temperature above Moscow by two degrees, he said Tuesday, calling for stricter efficiency in new buildings.

But Medvedevs remarks about outlawing incandescent lights bulb, and replacing them with more expensive and efficient ones, was not well received in all corners.

The Communists of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region an activist group best known for protesting the portrayal of Russians in the latest Indiana Jones movie are rallying support for the old-fashioned bulb, known in Russia as Lenins light bulb after the Soviet leaders electrification drive.

People are being forced to use evil luminescent bulbs that exude deadly ultraviolet rays, the organization said on its web site Thursday, dubbing efficient light bulbs Medved lamps.

We will protect incandescent bulbs, guard them from this regime and pass them down from generation to generation, the statement said.