Despite Mongolia’s nearly limitless supplies of coal, Ulaanbaatar recently approved plans to set up the country’s first commercial wind farm. The decision is fueling a public debate that aims to strike the right balance between Mongolia’s near-term and long-term economic development interests.
Sparsely inhabited, with vast steppes and ample wind, Mongolia’s potential for harnessing renewable energy is huge, proponents say. In 2005, the government passed the Renewable Energy Program, mandating that green energy sources account for 20-25 percent of Mongolia’s needs by 2020. Renewable energy is nothing new for Mongolians: It is common to see a remote nomad’s ger – a traditional felt home – fitted with solar panels and windmills powering satellite receivers.
“This is a very ambitious target, but achievable with large scale wind farms and solar power plants,” says Namjil Enebish, Executive Director of the National Renewable Energy Center. Approximately 2 percent of the country’s power needs are currently met with household solar systems and small hydro-electricity projects. The wind farm could significantly boost this figure, he told EurasiaNet.org.
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Pearly Jacob is an Ulaanbaatar-based freelance journalist.