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We do not have surplus electricity

The project for the construction of an export submarine cable from Sakhalin to Hokkaido is not yet undergoing an economic feasibility study

We do not have surplus electricity
Photo: shutterstock

Vyacheslav Baburin

Head of the Department of Economic and Social Geography of Russia, Geographical Faculty of Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov, Doctor of Geographical Sciences, Professor
The Russia-Japan energy bridge project will be discussed in the framework of the upcoming visit to Russia of the Minister of Trade, Economics and Industry of Japan, the Minister for Economic Cooperation with Russia Hiroshi Eco. Currently, the energy bridge is dealt with by a specially created working group - in particular, on the agenda - a feasibility study of the project and its coordination with the Japanese side. The main figures in today's discussion of the project are the Russian company Rossetti, contacts from the Japanese side are led by Softbank.

Recall that the project involves the supply of electricity to Japan from the Sakhalin stations (at the first stage) and the Far East (in the second stage). It is assumed that by the time of 2020, Sakhalin will be able to supply 500-600 MW of power to Japan, and further 2 GW will be added from the mainland. For later periods, the "loopback" of power systems can also be attributed through South Korea and the DPRK.

The amount of investment that sounds around the project is quite substantial, called figures of the order of 5,6 billion dollars. At the same time, despite the fact that the development of the project is already being implemented, its expediency seems ambiguous - while there really are plenty of resources in the Far East, the situation is different with electricity. This was reported to EastRussia correspondent by the head of the Department of Economic and Social Geography of Russia, Geographical Faculty of Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov, Doctor of Geographical Sciences, Professor Vyacheslav Baburin.

"Whatever it was, but, in essence, the project of energy bridge to Japan is the so-called" raw "project. And any such project in the Far East appears economically inefficient due to its colossal costs. At the same time, like the raw materials projects in other macro regions, it causes huge damage to the state, since it only increases the raw material orientation of the economy. As for the fact that, thanks to this project, Russia will be able to enter Japan more - so Japan should go to Russia and somehow adjust to it, and not vice versa, "said Vyacheslav Baburin in an interview with EastRussia.

The main reason for the construction of an energy bridge seems inappropriate is the fact that there is no excess electricity on Sakhalin and its adjacent parts of the mainland today. And those capacities that might seem surplus (the installed capacity of stations on Sakhalin really exceeds the current consumption) are in fact an operational reserve — equipment repairs would be impossible without them, and an isolated island power system would lose its stability. And if in the future such a situation arises that surplus electricity will be generated in the region, for example, at hydroelectric power stations in the Amur Region, then, in fact, it will not become as such because energy will be needed for Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories, for southern Yakutia , and also will not be superfluous for Transbaikalia. In addition, exports to China have already been established from the Amur Region, a full-fledged infrastructure has been built, and the energy of the neighboring country is twice as cheap as the domestic tariff.

Recall export capacity for the energy bridge of Russia has yet to be built. This may be a new generation of coal on Sakhalin, running on local fuel (in its time, the corresponding interest was designated by InterRAO UES). In the future, this could also be an energy bridge from the mainland to Sakhalin, which will allow collecting for export energy produced at all stations of the united energy system of the East - from Neryungri to Sovetskaya Gavan.

An additional problem, which has already been repeated many times, is that the Japanese island of Hokkaido simply does not need to import electricity from Russia to the extent that is assumed. And in order to transfer energy further - to central Japan on the island of Honshu - it is required to substantially “redraw” the internal energy system of Japan.

"At the same time, the project of the energy bridge is not only unprofitable and inappropriate, but also very difficult technically," continues Vyacheslav Baburin. - After all, it is very difficult to lay cables alone in those ocean conditions that are inherent in the project implementation area. Great depths, complex bottom relief, specific coastal rocks will in one way or another mean the necessity to use special equipment and materials, workers with relevant experience, and will require increased labor and complex management, "said Vyacheslav Baburin.

The project of building the energy bridge has been discussed since the time of RAO UES of Russia, from 2000 year, but for 16 years the discussion has not turned into practical formats. It is enough to add that in the summer of this year the company chairman of the company RusHydro Nikolai Shulginov noted that "the project can be discussed, but I would not set the task of the company to actively develop the process of discussion, too many incomprehensible economic conditions for entering this project."

According to Vyacheslav Baburin, taking into account the actual picture of the project of the energy bridge to Japan, the discussion and consideration of the project can hardly be motivated by the economic situation. It is clear that geopolitics is taking place here, but in addition to it the project may be due to the industry lobby of the Russian state corporations. If, nevertheless, we look for an alternative for the development of cooperation with Japan, which was beneficial not only for her, but also for Russia - that is, projects that are possible for joint implementation in the non-primary sector of the Far East, ”says Vyacheslav Baburin.
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