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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Rich, Powerful "Energy Superpower" Russia Can't Afford Electricity

The Moscow Times reports that so-called "energy superpower" Russia can't provide itself with enough electricity during the winter without shutting down its industrial base whenever the weather gets chilly, and things are worse this year than last. As usual, the Kremlin refuses to make full information about the issue public:

Hoping to avert blackouts this winter, the city will cut off electricity to industrial users when the temperature sinks to minus 15 degrees Celsius, 15 degrees higher than last winter.

The announcement by Boris Vainzikher, technical director of Unified Energy Systems, or UES, came at Tuesday's City Hall meeting. With last winter's limit set at minus 30 C, Moscow saw a daily consumption record Jan. 20, when 16,200 megawatts of electricity were consumed. But with the city's electric grid stretched to capacity, authorities are trying to preempt days like that -- and widespread outages.

It is unclear how many companies saw their power cut last winter. At least 253 companies, accounting for 2 percent of total consumption, received official warnings that they would be cut off. Among those companies affected was Independent Media Sanoma Magazines, the pubisher of The Moscow Times. The risk of outages will decrease next year as new power plants go on line, Vainzikher said.

First Deputy Mayor Yury Roslyak, who presided over the meeting, told city officials to make sure the first companies to lose power were those that used their energy inefficiently according to industry standards. City officials were less receptive to UES plans to burn more oil at Moscow power plants to compensate for a natural gas shortage.

The combustion of large amounts of oil would lead to serious pollution, Roslyak said, asking Vainzikher to reconsider. A city official who was not introduced by authorities at the meeting said burning more oil could cause acid rain. In other business, government officials gave preliminary approval to a plan to clean up the Likhoborka River in northern Moscow. But Roslyak had many criticisms of the measure, ordering that amendments addressing those concerns be drafted.

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