After years of being considered an 'oil-and-gas country', Russia now has an expanding renewable energy sector following a recent spate of foreign investment, and the installation and construction of several renewable energy projects.
The Soviet Union had a track record of developing renewable energy projects, especially large hydropower projects but also wind energy projects. Nevertheless, from 1970, low oil prices led to the complete abandonment of this sector, which was then neglected by Russian politics.
This situation changed only with the adoption of a national strategy for the development of renewable energy in 2009, which became necessary after Russia joined the Paris Climate Agreement and had to meet the obligations in the Agreement to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.
As regulatory incentives were poor, the sector only started to develop after a serious shift in stimulation measures for the production of renewable energy in 2013 through the introduction of a capacity-based stimulation system.
As in 2017, 2018 also saw relatively large renewable energy capacity auctions and assignments under the new regulations of Decree 449 dated 28 May 2013 on the Mechanism for the Promotion of Renewable Energy on the Wholesale Electricity and Capacity Market (Decree 449).
For example, as a result of tenders carried out in 2018 in the wind power industry, wind farms with an aggregate capacity of more than 850MW will be constructed in Russia in the coming years. Eight regions of Russia will be involved in the implementation of these projects.
AO VetroOGK, a structure controlled by the State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom), was awarded two projects with an aggregate capacity of approximately 30MW. The wind power plants will be constructed between 2019 and 2021 in Krasnodar Krai. The company is also currently implementing projects awarded previously, and has stated that its total investments in wind projects in Russia may exceed US$1,300 million. The technology for the projects will be provided by Dutch manufacturer Lagerwey.
OOO Fortum Energy, a joint venture between Fortum and Rusnano, won tenders for the construction of wind farms with an aggregate capacity of more than 820MW. The power generation facilities will be put into operation between 2019 and 2023. The two companies have announced their intention to invest approximately €400 million in wind farm construction projects, which will be sited in Rostov, Perm, Krasnodar Krai and other Russian regions. Danish giant Vestas, one of the world's largest producers of wind turbines, will supply the turbines and components for the projects.
PAO Enel Russia, the key Russian company in the Enel Group, did not participate in the 2018 tender. Apparently the company will concentrate on further implementation of projects it was awarded previously, with total investments in the projects estimated at approximately €405 million. It has been announced that one of the technological partners in the projects will be Siemens Gameza, a joint venture between German company Siemens and the Spanish Gameza.
These projects show that legislative changes have succeeded in increasing the sector's attractiveness for investors.
The 2019 auctions are currently under way and are also expected to be successful. However, the renewable energy capacity to be tendered in 2019 is significantly lower than in 2017 and 2018, namely 78.1MW for the wind power industry, 5.6MW for solar (photovoltaic) energy and almost 230MW for medium-sized hydro sources.1 The reason for this overall reduction is that approximately 90 per cent of the power generation capacity targeted until 2024 by the state policy on energy-efficiency improvement (see Section III) has been already assigned.
It appears that a standard structure for renewable energy projects has emerged from recent and current auctions, consisting of the creation of joint structures in which Russian state entities team up with foreign strategic investors in the renewable energy sector. The new regulations, combined with localisation requirements stipulated by law, have also initiated the creation of local high-technology production facilities in Russia.
In January 2009, the government approved the state policy on energy efficiency improvement (the Policy).2 When adopted, the Policy covered the period until 2020 and provided key directions for the development of renewable energy projects in Russia. Later, the Policy was significantly amended. Through these amendments, the government set out the current legal framework based on the state-supported capacity supply system, and extended the effect of the Policy to cover the period until 2024.
In November 2009, the government approved the Russian energy strategy for the period until 2030 (the Strategy).3 The Strategy aimed to announce a number of measures to ensure the efficient use of natural energy resources, and to set out key principles of government support to various energy sectors. In particular, the government announced certain efforts to create an environment that allows the development of renewable energy sources and their increased share in the Russian energy sector.
Through these two documents, the government laid a foundation for the further development of the renewable energy sector in Russia, determined its main directions and created a legal framework for further projects. Both documents became a legislative basis for the adoption of more specific regulations, which created the current legal regime for all activities within the sector.
The Policy, as a key source of basic principles, provided the main targets to be reached in the sector. The initial version of the Policy specified that renewable energy in the Russian energy sector should have reached 2.5 per cent by 2020. Amendments introduced in 2015 changed this target: according to the current version of the Policy, Russia aims to meet a 4.5 per cent share of its energy requirements with renewable energy by 2024. The Ministry of Energy was empowered to allocate the targeted capacity between various renewable energy sources, initially wind, solar (photovoltaic) and medium-sized hydro sources. As from 2017, it also included waste-to-energy renewable energy facilities. This was a new direction for the development of renewable energy projects in Russia and the government determined4 that these waste-burning plants would first be constructed in the regions of Moscow (approximately 280MW) and the Republic of Tatarstan (55MW). In 2018, two new Russian regions were added: Krasnodar Krai (55MW) and Stavropol Krai (55MW).5 However, no bids were submitted for these new projects and the 2018 tender for construction of waste-burning plants was not successful.
Russia's energy policy emphasises the importance of local production development in the renewable energy sector. Russia has been trying since 2012 to replace imports, particularly of technologically complex products, with locally produced products. The government encourages potential investors to run production of high-tech components for power-generating facilities in Russia to develop competitive local technologies and production in the country (see Section V for a more detailed description of localisation rules).
LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND EXISTING REGULATIONS
Russian lawmakers began focusing on renewable energy as early as 2007 with the passage of an amendment to the 7 that attempted to connect renewable energy sources into Russia's electricity generation system. Despite this attempt, a renewable energy programme was not successfully implemented until 2011, when further changes to the Law on Electricity created an incentive scheme for investment in this sector. These changes led to the passage of Decree 449 two years later and the renewable energy developments Russia is seeing today. The basis for the current expansion of Russian renewable energy was the passage in 2013 of Decree 449.
Initially, the government proposed to incentivise renewable energy market participants through premium payments. In 2007, amendments to the Law on Electricity introduced a 'premium scheme' as the principal promotion mechanism. This scheme envisaged that a certain premium on the equilibrium energy price in the wholesale electricity and capacity market would be paid to suppliers in renewable energy projects. However, this mechanism did not work in practice because of certain legal and technical issues, and because of the potential impact on prices for end customers.
Subsequently, in 2013, the premium scheme was replaced by the 'capacity supply scheme' and the government adopted one of the key regulations establishing the existing state support mechanism for Russian renewable energy projects – Decree 449.
The key idea of the capacity supply scheme consists in switching from a 'premium' component to a consideration payable to the provider of power generation capacity. The consideration is calculated on the basis of the beneficial fixed tariff.
Applying beneficial tariffs fixed for 15 years allows market players to receive a guaranteed return on an investment made in the construction and operation of a power facility. The tariffs take into account the capital expenditure amount, currency fluctuations and other factors, and provide a 12 to 14 per cent profit margin.7 We describe the structure of the beneficial tariffs in more detail below. However, to apply such a tariff, suppliers have to comply with the Russian localisation requirements.
Decree 449 deals with solar, wind, medium-sized hydro and waste-burning power sources, and thus does not cover the entire field of renewable energy sources. Renewable capacities supplied must be equal to or exceed 5MW. Decree 449 is also restricted to the central tariff zone, and does not apply to 'non-tariff zones' and isolated territories.
The main mechanism under Decree 449 for encouraging the use of renewable energy is the conclusion of long-term energy capacity supply agreements with renewable energy source operators. A potential supplier is granted the right to enter into such agreements through a tender procedure conducted by the Trading System Administrator (ATS). Under such an agreement, a supplier will be obliged to create the renewable energy facility within a certain time frame and to supply capacity into the Russian energy system. The supplier will be entitled to receive remuneration for its capacity and for the energy it supplies based on 15-year fixed prices.
In particular, the procedure for concluding an agreement on capacity supply includes the following stages. Capacities are offered to potential suppliers once a year in a tender process organised by ATS. Potential suppliers are invited to submit their bids according to the conditions provided for in Decree 449. Together with a technical description of the project, the bid shall specify the degree of localisation of the renewable energy facility as well as financial guarantees for the potential supplier's obligations. After bids are submitted, ATS will select the tender winners and conclude agreements on energy capacity supply with them.
A potential supplier's main obligation under the agreement is to create a renewable energy facility within the agreed parameters for capacity, localisation levels and timings. Agreements will always contain provisions on substantial penalties for delays in capacity supply.
Another central element of any agreement will be the localisation requirements. Decree 449 requires establishing detailed lists of localisation percentages for the different elements of renewable energy facilities. In addition, reaching the agreed level of localisation plays an essential role in determining the price for the supplied capacity. If this level is not reached, the price will be significantly lower (35 per cent lower for solar power sources, and 45 per cent for wind, medium-sized hydro and waste-burning power sources), which will render the relevant projects economically disadvantageous.
After completing construction of a renewable energy facility, the supplier must apply for recognition of this source as a qualifying generating facility to be able to supply capacity to the market. The qualification process involves both federal authorities (the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation) and the wholesale market organisation (the Market Council).
When the supplier applies to the Ministry of Industry and Trade for determination of a renewable energy facility's degree of localisation, the Ministry will assign this determination to a special commission. Based on the commission's resolution, the Ministry will submit a statement to the Market Council, which will in turn allocate the renewable energy facility to one of three categories of localisation level: less than 50 per cent, between 50 and 70 per cent, or above 70 per cent. The corresponding price will be based on the Market Council's qualification.
INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK, AND THE REGULATORS AND THEIR RESPECTIVE POWERS
The Russian electricity market is a two-level (wholesale and retail) electricity and capacity market. The retail market involves an end-consumer element, while the wholesale market mostly consists of generation companies, retail companies and large consumers.
The wholesale market commodities are electricity and capacity. Acquisition of capacity by an acquirer means that it has a right to demand from the supplier that electricity of a defined quality be generated by his or her generating equipment. Thus, the sale of capacity is in fact an arrangement for the provision of certain volumes of electric power in the future.
Provision of capacity generated through renewable energy sources is one of the mechanisms used in the wholesale capacity market. As already mentioned above, this mechanism is structured through the capacity supply agreements entered into as a result of the tenders for the selection of investment projects in the respective areas.
The tenders are conducted four years in advance for each different type of generating facility, depending on the applicable type of renewable energy source: solar (photovoltaic), wind and water (medium-sized hydro) energy. Since 2017, a similar procedure has applied to waste-burning energy facilities.
A first step for potential participants entering the market would be conformity with the Rules of Wholesale Electricity and Capacity Market Operation established by Decree No. 1172.8 Participants are required to enter into a wholesale electricity and capacity market accession contract and acquire membership of non-profit partnership association the Market Council. A mandatory form of accession contract is approved by law, and cannot be renegotiated or amended by market participants. Once the accession contract is entered into, the market participant is deemed to be involved in the wholesale capacity market.
The following key entities regulate commercial activities within the market:
The Market Council:
The Market Council also exercises authority in relation to certain aspects of the use of renewable energy facilities.
ATS is primarily responsible for conducting state tenders and entering into contracts with wholesale market participants.
CFS provides settlement services to all market participants and ensures the effective operation of the complex settlement system in the wholesale capacity market.
The activities of all three entities are regulated and controlled by the government.
TYPICAL PROJECT STEPS, REGULATORY APPROVALS AND TIME FRAMES
Based on what has been discussed above, the typical project steps for potential market participants would be as follows:
Particular time frames for projects are determined by the deadline indicated in the respective capacity supply agreements. In practice, the deadline is usually from one-and-a-half to four years from the date of the tender. If the deadline is missed, significant penalties will apply to the supplier. These penalties will automatically be discharged from the supplier's account, which is opened in the settlement system by CFS. Subject to the provision by the supplier of additional financial security, the deadline can be postponed, but for not more than two years overall.
RECENT RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT DEVELOPMENTS
As can be seen from the above, in the Russian wholesale capacity market there is none of the project development typically seen in international energy markets, as the Russian market's activities are strictly regulated by law.
However, potential capacity suppliers do not enter into project tenders alone. The companies combine their efforts and create consortiums involving global Russian participants, foreign investors, and local participants responsible for issues that may arise on Russian territory. These structures allow the creation of strong teams that can effectively resolve issues that arise.
Projects are usually financed by foreign investors at the outset. However, as Russian market participants are large reliable companies, they also participate in the financing of projects.
After a tender, the initial investors make efforts to attract borrowed financing, typically using standard project financing such as bank credit facilities; for example, it was announced that Gazprombank would finance the construction of wind farms by Rosatom, with investment of approximately 64 billion roubles.
As mentioned above, pursuant to Decree 449, the main mechanism guaranteeing investors a return on their investment (thus allowing them to repay the borrowed financing) is the application of beneficial tariffs, fixed for 15 years under the relevant energy capacity supply agreements.
In addition to the incentives provided by Decree 449, suppliers are also entitled to apply for subsidies from the Russian federal budget, provided that they meet certain criteria. These subsidies could include reimbursement of costs for the technological connection of the generating facility to the electrical power networks.
New incentives are currently being sought for more competition on the market, in particular by increasing the sales of electricity (capacity) produced using renewable energy sources.
Distributed (on-site) and residential renewable energy is not widespread in Russia and thus it does not play any significant role in the national economy.
Traditional energy sources such as oil, gas and coal are commonly used to supply power to isolated territories. However, relatively small generating companies, using renewable energy sources, are now emerging in these territories.
Although the share of project financing in renewable energy projects in Russia is now increasing, most projects are currently implemented through structures or joint ventures established or controlled by state-owned corporations such as Rosatom and Rusnano (see Section II). These corporations can be considered equity investors in their respective projects.
Some relatively minor investors prefer to use their own funds or to attract financing from their parent companies.
Russian industrial policy has been trying since 2012 to replace imported materials with locally manufactured ones. This policy is generally described by such terms as 'import substitution' and 'localisation'. Since the Law on Russian Industrial Policy No. 488-FZ9 took effect in June 2015, the public procurement rules for many types of goods have changed, and a new rule requiring these goods to be made locally in Russia was established.
Russia has chosen a similar path for developing its renewable energy sources: both the distribution of capacity and the level of prices for the supplied capacity depend on the degree of the localisation of the power generating facility, namely:
To be admitted to a tender, operators have to register as wholesale market participants. The minimum amount of supplied capacity by operators who are wholesale market participants is 5MW. Specifically, for operators of hydro energy plants, there is an additional maximum limit of 25MW. The volume of supplied capacity is estimated by each operator before the actual construction of the power generating facility by signing contracts on the design and construction of the corresponding facilities. The estimates are also set out in the capacity supply agreements that are signed with tender winners. A failure to honour these agreements will trigger contractual penalties.
Furthermore, when planning to participate in a tender, operators have to consider the requirements in terms of the maximum amount of capital expenditures for the construction of the power generating facility, which is one of the tender's criteria. This amount depends on the renewable energy resource and the year of participation in the tender. For example, the capital expenditures for the construction of solar plants for projects that are selected in 2018 may not exceed, inter alia, 105,262 roubles per KW in 2019 and 103,157 roubles per KW in 2020. For wind plants, the upper limit is, inter alia, 109,561 roubles per KW in 2019 and 109,451 roubles per KW in 2020. Finally, the upper limit for medium-sized hydro energy plants is 146,000 roubles per KW from 2019 to 2023. Therefore, companies participating in tenders only compete on the basis of the amount of capital expenditure required to develop the facility.
As mentioned above, a certain degree of localisation must be reached to win a tender. Power generating facilities and their components and equipment have to be at least partly manufactured in Russia. Since 2016, 70 per cent of the generating equipment for solar energy plants has to be made in Russia. Wind energy plants have to attain a 65 per cent localisation level from 2019. For medium-sized hydro energy plants, the localisation degree is also 65 per cent. Government Decree No. 42610 defines the components and operations that are used for calculating the degree of localisation and its rate. Non-compliance with these requirements means that an operator can no longer participate in a tender. The declared localisation degree is also based on operators' forecasts, the planned local industrial capacity and their contracts with the suppliers or manufacturers of components and equipment. The localisation requirements are rather high and, at the same time, most components and equipment for power generating facilities are still not manufactured in Russia. Tender winners are therefore usually confronted with the need to produce the components and equipment themselves shortly after concluding a capacity supply agreement. If a tender winner fails to comply with the agreed timelines and the stipulated localisation degree, it may be subject to contractual penalties ranging from 85 to 100 per cent of the contract's total value.
After the construction of a plant, its certification as a power generating facility that uses renewable energy sources is the final step to set the price for capacity. For the purpose of this certification, the operator first has to file an application for the determination of the degree of localisation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade. After receiving this application, the Ministry passes the application on to the Commission overseeing determination of the degree of localisation of the power generating facilities using renewable energy sources. After reviewing the submitted documents, the Commission then makes a decision that is used by the Ministry to determine the localisation degree and to send a copy of its decision to the Market Council. Finally, the Market Council classifies the power generating facility into one of three categories, depending on the degree of localisation: less than 50 per cent, between 50 and 70 per cent, and above 70 per cent. The price for the supplied capacity will be determined specifically on the basis of its allocated category.
When establishing whether a certain component is produced in Russia, the general rules for determining the country of origin of goods (as provided for by the customs legislation) will apply, unless a component is produced within the special investment contract (SPIC) framework. This exception to the general rule is expressly provided for by law.
Signing a SPIC has proved to be one of the decisive conditions for meeting the localisation requirements, since it enables any operator who has entered into a SPIC to treat imported components as if they had been produced locally in Russia for the purpose of calculating the localisation degree at the initial stages of the implementation of an investment project.
SPICs were first introduced in the Law on Russian Industrial Policy No. 488-FZ.11 Thanks to Government Decree 70812, which contains, inter alia, a model for SPICs, SPICs eventually became applicable in practice. SPICs can be entered into either at the federal level or with the participation of regional and local authorities.
The investor's main obligation under the SPIC framework is typically to establish or modernise the production of specific goods, including those that were hitherto not produced in Russia, with certain minimum volumes of investment and production in accordance with the agreed business and production plans, which are to be incorporated into the SPIC. The competent authorities control the due fulfilment of the investor's obligations under the SPIC. In turn, the investor is granted certain incentives, usually in the form of tax reliefs and preferences in public procurement, as well as a special regime for determining the localisation degree. The scope of incentives available under a SPIC is limited to those provided by law. SPICs are entered into for a period that is equal to the time frame required to make the project operationally profitable according to the business plan plus five years, but in any case, this should not be more than 10 years.
New rules for entering into SPICs (SPIC 1.1) were adopted by Decree13, with effect from 18 June 2018. In particular, these new rules provide that entities registered in offshore zones cannot be SPIC participants.
Currently, there are two competing drafts (SPIC 2.0 and SZPK) of federal laws aiming to regulate the conclusion of agreements affording support to investments in the Russian Federation, including in the renewable energy sector. Unlike SPIC 1.1, under SPIC 2.0 a SPIC has to be entered into through a tender process. The second draft bill introduces a new type of agreement, the SZPK, for the promotion and protection of investments. Unlike SPICs, SZPKs provide for a less formal contractual process, simply requiring the filing of a declaration on the implementation of the investment project.
Since neither bill has been adopted yet, it is difficult to forecast which concept will ultimately be chosen. It is therefore likely that the current regime, SPIC 1.1, will remain in place for some time.
Implementing incentive mechanisms for the use of renewable energy in the Russian legal system has created significant activity in this sector, and renewable energy facilities are constantly under construction. Localisation requirements have brought new production facilities to the country, with suppliers able to produce components for renewable energy locally now being in high demand.
We expect the market to further develop and to encompass segments that are currently beyond the scope of Decree 449, such as energy supply sectors in isolated territories. Russian politics are supporting these developments. Today, Russian renewable energy offers more potential and opportunities than ever before.
It should be noted that according to a statement of the Market Council, and as mentioned above, as at the beginning of 2019, approximately 90 per cent of the targeted capacity has already been awarded to various market participants. The awarded capacity was mostly allocated among wind and solar energy projects. The market is still awaiting new regulations regarding the period beyond 2024. At present, there is uncertainty regarding future support for the renewable energy sector after the expiry of the current incentives.
Large industrial consumers have objected to the extension of the Policy, calling instead for the adoption of alternative measures to support the renewable energy sector. The main reasons for their dissatisfaction are the price of power capacity and the increase in the costs of implementing renewable energy projects. However, the key investors in the Russian renewable energy sector (such as Rusnano) have requested the extension of the Policy until 2035. They believe the Russian renewable energy sector is still too young to function under the general competitive rules of the Russian energy market applicable in other sectors.
While the outcome of the dispute about the extension of the Policy remains unclear, the Market Council has initiated development of the concept of Russian green certificates, which may be used to supplement the existing structure. Work is being done by the Market Council in this respect; thus, for the first time in Russia, the concept of green certificates seems to be a potentially workable option. By selling these green certificates, consumers could reduce their total amount of payments for capacity under the current support mechanism of capacity supply agreements, while for power suppliers, the green certificates could act as a source of return on their investments.
Consequently, the Russian renewable energy market is now awaiting further changes to the legal regime, and these changes will certainly provide a new impulse for further development in the industry.
This article was prepared for and first published by The Law Reviews in September 2019.
 A medium-sized hydropower plant is one whose aggregate capacity is between 5MW and 25MW. Back ↑
 Decree of the Russian Government No. 1-r dated 8 January 2009. Back ↑
 Decree of the Russian Government No. 1715-r dated 13 November 2009. Back ↑
 Decree of the Russian Government No. 355-r dated 28 February 2017. Back ↑
 Decree of the Russian Government No. 567-r dated 31 March 2018. Back ↑
 Federal Law on Electricity No. 35-FZ dated 26 March 2003. Back ↑
 Currently an investor may expect a 12 per cent profit margin; a 14 per cent margin was provided to renewable energy projects whose tenders were carried out in 2013 and 2014. Back ↑
 Decree of the Russian Government No. 1172 dated 27 December 2010 on Approval of the Rules of Wholesale Electricity and Capacity Market Operation. Back ↑
 Federal Law on Industrial Policy in the Russian Federation No. 448-FZ dated 31 December 2014. Back ↑
 Decree of the Russian Government No. 426 dated 3 June 2008 on Certification of Generating Facilities Functioning as Renewable Energy Sources. Back ↑
 Federal Law on Industrial Policy in the Russian Federation No. 448-FZ dated 31 December 2014. Back ↑
 Decree of the Russian Government No. 708 dated 16 July 2015 on Special Investment Contracts for Certain Industrial Sectors. Back ↑
 Decree of the Russian Government No. 1564 dated 16 December 2017 on Amendments to Certain Acts of the Russian Government Relating to a special Investment Contract. Back ↑