Belarus energy profile
IEA (2020), Belarus energy profile, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/belarus-energy-profile, License: CC BY 4.0
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The Republic of Belarus (Belarus) is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered by the Russian Federation (Russia) to the north and east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Belarus covers an area of 207 595 square kilometres (km2) (40% of which is forested) and has 9.4 million inhabitants. Minsk, the largest city, is the national capital and home to 21.5% of the population; 77.6% of the population is urban and 22.4% is rural.
Belarus has a diversified industrial profile. Despite a lack of natural resources and the economic crisis that followed dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus has achieved solid economic growth through manufacturing and exports, including machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemicals, metals and textiles. Real gross domestic product (GDP) in US dollars (USD) at purchasing power parity (PPP) was USD 60.45 billion in 2019, an increase of 3% since 2010.
However, little structural reform has occurred in the country since it gained independence, and foreign investment is relatively low. The long-time president opposes privatisation of state enterprises, so the energy sector is owned and operated by the government and the president holds the exclusive right to make all strategic decisions. The electricity sector is operated by a single vertically integrated national energy company, BelEnergo, while gas distribution is handled by BelTopGaz. The government believes that having control over the entire energy sector will guarantee a secure and stable energy supply.
Because of its modest natural resources, Belarus relies on imports from Russia to meet most of its energy needs. Belarus is also an important part of Russia’s gas transit corridor to Western Europe, and matters related to natural gas transit, such as infrastructure, system operations, tariff structure and technical services are established in a bilateral agreement with Russia’s Gazprom.
The main priorities of Belarusian energy policy and strategy are to provide reliable and sustainable energy for the national economy while reducing energy import dependence and improving the sector’s financial stability. The government is contemplating power generation fuel diversification to include more coal and renewables, and it has introduced a green feed-in tariff (FIT) to attract more investment in renewables.
The government is also improving energy efficiency in electricity and heat production and is phasing out subsidies for electricity, heat and gas, which is expected to make the energy sector more market-focused and attractive for private investment.
While Belarus’s energy policy do have direction, strong legislation and implementation tools are lacking. Long-term policy planning and/or analysis of different scenarios are needed to develop government programmes. Furthermore, a basic law on electricity and heat does not exist. At the end of 2019, the government was considering new legislation on electricity that includes provisions for unbundling, but this legislation is under consideration only.
Belarus participates in the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan-Armenia Customs Union, which evolved into the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan-Armenia Common Economic Space (CES) in 2012, directed by the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) (to which Belarus is a party). The CES aims to remove barriers to the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour among its members. Belarus is also a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), operational since January 2015, along with Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
In addition to its bilateral relations and work performed as part of the Baku Initiative, which provides political dialogue between the European Union and the countries of the Caspian and Black Sea littoral states and their neighbouring countries, Belarus participates in the European Commission’s Eastern Partnership programmes.
Belarus is involved in implementing numerous interstate and international treaties in energy, including participation in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) agreement on the co‑ordination of interstate relations in the power sector, and the treaty on the parallel operations of power systems of the CIS.
Key energy data
- In 2018, only 15% of the country’s energy demand (27 million tonnes of oil equivalent [Mtoe]) was met by domestic production, making Belarus one of the least energy self-sufficient countries in the world.
- Despite having the world’s third-largest production of peat (544 kilotonnes of oil equivalent [ktoe] or 2354 kt in 2018), and small amounts of crude oil (1 678 ktoe in 2018) and natural gas production (128 ktoe in 2018), Belarus depends heavily on imports to cover its energy demand.
- Nearly all electricity generation came from natural gas in 2018 (97%, or 39 terawatt hours [TWh]), but this is projected to change with the commissioning of two nuclear generators (1 200 megawatts [MW] each, to be operational in October 2020 and July 2021).
- Belarus is a large oil refiner (36th in the world, at 19 Mt of oil products in 2018).
- Belarus depends heavily on imports for all types of fossil fuels, supplied mainly by Russia.
- The country is one of the world’s largest importers of natural gas: according to preliminary data for 2018, it imported 17 Mtoe (20 billion cubic metres [bcm]) of natural gas, making it the leading importer among EU4Energy countries.
- Belarus imports similar quantities of crude oil (17 Mtoe in 2018), but most oil is re-exported in the form of oil products (11.4 Mtoe). Russia is the main supplier of crude oil refined in Belarus, and in turn Belarus is Ukraine’s primary supplier of oil products.
- Total energy consumption (measured by total primary energy supply) in Belarus was 27.0 Mtoe in 2018, comparable with consumption in Norway and Hungary.
- The industry sector is the largest final energy consumer with a 36% share (7.3 Mtoe in 2018); it is also the greatest consumer of electricity and heat. The residential sector is Belarus’s second-largest final energy-consuming sector (27% share or 5.2 Mtoe in 2018).
- Since 2000, the largest increase in energy demand has been in the transport sector (In 2018, consumption was 80% higher than in 2000). Transport is by far the largest consumer of oil products in the country.
- Primary energy intensity of Belarus is 0.15 tons of oil equivalent [toe] / 1000 USD (2015). This is above the world (0.111 toe / 1000 USD) and EU (0.076 toe / 1000 USD) averages. Out of the EU4Energy countries, energy demand is similar in Turkmenistan, whereas energy intensity in Belarus is 40% lower.
- Renewables accounted for only 6% of Belarus’s energy mix in 2018, mostly from biofuels and waste. Renewables share in electricity generation was even lower, 2% in 2018 (0.8 TWh).
Energy sector governance
Belarus’s energy sector is dominated by state-owned companies operating under supervision of the Ministry of Energy in electricity, gas and part of the heat sector, and under BelNefteKhim (Belarus State Concern for Oil and Chemistry) in the oil, refining and petrochemicals sector.
The Ministry of Energy is responsible for Belarus’s fuel and energy sector. It manages the vertically integrated state-owned natural gas supplier BelTopGaz and the vertically integrated state-owned electricity producer, supplier and retailer BelEnergo. This ministry also oversees the state-owned Belarusian nuclear power plant (NPP) and other state-owned organisations operating in the energy sector, and it is responsible for implementing the Sectoral Programme of Electricity System Development for 2016-2020.
State regulation of the energy sector, including energy efficiency and renewable energy, is carried out through decrees, presidential directives, government decisions and the Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade. Other relevant ministries and departments are also active participants.
The Energy Efficiency Department of the State Standardisation Committee is responsible for developing and implementing national energy efficiency and renewable energy policies. It also monitors and ensures state control of rational fuel, electricity and heat use.
Local councils, executive authorities and administrative bodies implement state energy policy, and there are many public and non-governmental organisations active in the field of energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental protection in Belarus.
The highest legal document in Belarus is its Constitution. Under this are decisions, decrees and orders of the head of state, followed by constitutional laws and other legal acts, decrees of the Council of Ministers and other sectoral ministerial acts. In theory, this means that the head of state can override legislation that has been adopted by the parliament. This rule is a fundamental barrier to long-term investment, so making national legislation more predictable and stable for both domestic and foreign investors should be considered.
Under the Constitution, judicial power in Belarus belongs to the courts:
- The Constitutional Court adjudicates disputes concerning the compliance of regulatory legal acts with the Constitution. The Constitutional Court consists of 12 highly qualified experts: six judges appointed by the president and six elected by the Council of the Republic. The chairperson of the Constitutional Court is appointed by the president with the consent of the Council of the National Assembly. Judges of the Constitutional Court have 11-year terms.
- Courts of general jurisdiction (including special military courts) hear civil, criminal and administrative offence cases, as well as cases involving military personnel. Courts of general jurisdiction are the Supreme Court, regional courts, Minsk municipal court, municipal (district) courts and military courts.
- Economic courts adjudicate disputes between legal entities and some economic and business enterprises, including those involving foreign economic entities. The Supreme Economic Court, regional economic courts and the economic court of the city of Minsk make up this category.
- The International Arbitration Court of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is an alternative to the general and economic courts. It contributes to the implementation of foreign economic activities and ensures the confidential consideration of cases without excessive formalities.
The main pieces of legislation governing Belarus’s energy sector are:
- the Law on Gas Supply (2003)
- the Law on Nuclear Energy (2008)
- the Law on Renewable Energy Sources (2010), which includes electricity and heat regulations
- the Law on Energy Savings (2015).
The Law on Energy Savings stipulates energy efficiency technology implementation and energy-efficient equipment requirements, but there is no law on electricity in Belarus, although the government is considering drafting a law that addresses electricity sector unbundling.
On 29 May 2019, a Protocol was signed amending the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union of 29 May 2014 (regarding the formation of a common EAEU electricity market). In the absence of a legal framework on power sector market relations, Belarus will have to finalise its draft Law on the Electric Power Industry so that Belarusian companies may participate in the EAEU’s common energy market until 2025. Belarus must also ensure the development of rules for its wholesale and retail electricity markets, as well as other by-laws governing the economic, technical, informational and organisational relationships of participants in the wholesale and retail electricity markets.
There is also no law on heat, and no proposals are under consideration.
In May 2013 a Power Supply Rule was approved by the government, legislating electricity network development and rehabilitation, and in August 2014 a new Decree on Grid Connection was approved, allowing smaller private generators to access the grid.
On 11 September 2019, Resolution No. 609 of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus on Issues in the Field of Heat Supply approved the heat supply rules. The heat supply rules regulate consumer relations with energy-supply organisations, the procedure for connecting consumers’ heat consumption systems to heating networks, and the payment procedure for heat energy. Because greater renewable energy use would reinforce energy security by reducing energy imports (at the same time as cutting GHG emissions), the government has made renewables development an energy sector priority.
In 2015 the Belarusian government amended the renewable energy regulations of the Law on Renewable Energy Sources adopted in 2010. In May 2015, it approved the Presidential Decree on the Use of Renewable Energy and in August 2015 a resolution on a new methodology for FITs. Approval of the Comprehensive Development Plan for the Electricity Sector to 2025 and Beyond happened in March 2016, and in April 2016 the National Energy Saving Programme 2016-2020 was approved.
Under Presidential Decree No. 357 of 24 September 2019, only renewable electricity generating companies that use new equipment are allowed to take part in tenders to allocate quotas for the implementation of renewable energy projects; all contracted renewable electricity is purchased at incentive tariffs for ten years. According to the Law on Renewable Energy Sources, renewable energy source (RES) procurement is carried out at the expense of the energy-supplying utilities (regional units of the vertically integrated operator, State Production Association [SPA] Belenergo). Renewable electricity generators must follow the dispatch control centre’s schedule to maintain system reliability (i.e. halt the supply when there is an excess of electricity at night and restart it during the day).
The aim of Belarus’s energy policy is to secure reliable and sustainable energy while reducing energy import dependence and improving the energy sector’s financial stability. Renewable energy and energy efficiency have been recognised as means to achieve these aims, but most of the change in the energy sector will be effectuated by the new nuclear power station, expected to be partially operational by 2020.
Belarus’s main energy policy document, the Concept of Energy Security, came into force on 1 January 2016. Policy objectives have remained the same as in the previous policy document: increased use of local fuels and reduced gas import dependency; expanded trade and regional co-operation; stronger state control but legal protection for smaller private companies; new technology development; and reduced energy intensity of GDP. The main strategies to achieve these objectives are to:
• Reduce import dependency and develop domestic energy resources.
• Diversify import suppliers and increase energy transit.
• Reduce natural gas in the energy mix.
• Improve reliability through rehabilitation and modernisation, and increased oil reserves.
• Enhance demand-side energy efficiency measures and reduce GDP energy intensity.
• Enhance production and distribution energy efficiency.
• Make energy affordable while phasing out subsidies.
• Expand regional and global co-operation and trade/exports.
• Improve energy sector management.
The Concept for Developing Power Generation Facilities and Power Grids to 2030 is a mechanism to implement the Concept of Energy Security. It prescribes that:
• The structure of generating equipment be optimised to maintain statutory power system reserves and comply with the required energy security indicators.
• Maintenance approaches for dilapidated and/or unclaimed boiler equipment be revised, especially for peak-load boilers, taking into account the input of electric boilers in large district heating systems.
• Power grid infrastructure be supported and developed, with the possibility of increasing electricity exports.
• District heating systems and heating networks be developed and modernised to minimise thermal power plant and boiler energy system operating equipment, while maintaining the supply of heat energy to consumers.
• Heat supply systems be equipped with complex automation, i.e. unified information systems that use smart grid technologies to automate the organisational and technological processes of district heating in cities.
• A legislative and regulatory framework be developed to govern the functioning of Belarus’s energy system, incorporating documents adopted and planned for adoption by the EAEU and other international associations.
The Comprehensive Development Plan for the Electricity Sector provides for integration of the planned NPP and necessary changes in the regulatory and technical framework. The plan also includes allowances for network rehabilitation and development, and the phaseout of tariff subsidies. Its main technical goals are to:
- Commission the Belarusian NPP (2 400 MW).
- Reduce the share of gas in heat and electricity production to 60% by 2025.
- Integrate the NPP into the grid by installing 985 MW of electric boilers with Belenergo and 200 MW with other consumers.
- Construct 800 MW of peak-reserve power capacity.
- Restrict the Belarusian NPP’s basic mode of operation in the non-heating period to 80% of rated power.
- Introduce electric heating and hot water systems in new building construction when technically and economically feasible.
- Expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure and electric public transport.
The National Statistical Committee (Belstat) is responsible for compiling and publishing energy data in Belarus.
The main sources of data are annual, quarterly and monthly surveys on energy consumption and industrial production; trade and stock information are collected on a monthly basis. Energy statistics team of Belstat has a very good relationship with data providers and data users, particularly through its large national statistics working group.
Belarus’s energy statistics collection methodology is based on:
- International Recommendations for Energy Statistics (UNSD, 2011)
- Energy Statistics Manual (IEA, 2005)
- Energy Efficiency Indicators: Fundamentals on Statistics (IEA, 2014)
- Energy Statistics: A Manual for Developing Countries (UN, 1991)
- Energy Statistics: Definitions, Units of Measure and Conversion Factors (UN, 1987)
- Concepts and Methods in Energy Statistics, With Special Reference to Energy Accounts and Balances (UN, 1982).
The Energy Balance of the Republic of Belarus is the main statistics publication and publicly available online in the energy section of the statistics website. A monthly bulletin is also produced and available on request. Belstat has shared the five International Energy Agency (IEA)/Eurostat/United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) annual joint energy questionnaires since the early 1990s, and has aligned its energy balance with the International Recommendations for Energy Statistics. It also shares data with the CIS Statistical Committee and the EEC. In addition, Belarus participates in the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) for both oil and gas by sending these monthly data to the UN Statistics Division (UNSD).
The energy data produced by Belstat are widely used by government institutions. Reducing energy intensity is one of the targets of the country’s key energy strategy document, the Concept of Energy Security, and the evolution of this indicator is monitored in every five-year plan. Energy data are also essential inputs for the short- and medium-term forecasts of the Ministry of Economy, the assessments of energy savings by the Department of Energy Efficiency, the inventories of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions done by the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the research of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Statistical Committee has developed temperature-corrected time series of energy consumption, and it also co‑operates closely with the Department of Energy Efficiency and other stakeholders to develop an expanded set of energy efficiency indicators to aid in energy efficiency planning. Energy end-use questions were included in the 2015 household survey.