HomeDecentralized EnergyCogeneration CHPDistrict heating and CHP in Russia: Room for improvement

District heating and CHP in Russia: Room for improvement



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A Jenbacher gas engine, J620, which has been deployed in Russia. Most of Russia’s CHP is powered by natural gas Photo: GE

The IEA has published the final in its series of country profiles for CHP and district heating/cooling ” for Russia. And, while Russia is a major user of CHP in industry, and by far the world’s largest user of district heating, most of these urban systems are in a poor state. Steve Hodgson summarizes the report.

The term cogeneration (also known as combined heat and power or CHP) covers a vast array and size of technologies; from ‘micro-CHP’ units being developed to serve the needs of an individual home, to vast, custom-built plant that serves the energy needs of a large refinery or industrial estate. Add district heating and/or cooling (DHC) ” another range of technologies which may or may not include CHP to supply any one, two or three of heat energy, cooling and power to a town, educational campus or area of a city. CHP and DHC systems use an array of technologies, from gas turbines through engines to heat-only boilers, and a range of fuels which increasingly includes non-fossil fuels ” biofuels, solid municipal waste and industrial or biological ‘waste’ products.

And, as regular readers will already know, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has completed a major project, first to quantify the amount of CHP/DHC in use in countries across the world and, more importantly, to gather examples of good practice policymaking from countries which use plenty of CHP/DHC, in order that other countries can see a way forward to unlocking the considerable benefits of encouraging CHP/DHC growth.

Outputs from the IEA ‘CHP/DHC Collaborative’ include a first report: Combined heat and power: evaluating the benefits of greater global investment, 12 country scorecards and a final report: Cogeneration and district energy ” sustainable energy technologies for today and tomorrow, all available at the IEA Collaborative website: www.iea.org/G8/CHP/chp.asp.

An article in the July-August 2009 issue of COSPP summarized the central part of the final report ” i.e. the types of policy interventions available, and how to put a co-ordinated policy structure together.

But, as the final report was published one ‘country scorecard’ had yet to be published ” an important one, as the country involved, Russia, is one of the largest users of CHP in the world. Furthermore, unusually, it has enormous capacity in both main sectors: CHP systems serving industrial sites, and urban district heating (but not cooling) systems. Indeed, the size of the Russian district heating sector is almost 10 times that of any other country ” yet most of the systems are both aged and decrepit.

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A greenhouse in Russia which is powered by gas CHP. The cogeneration system also features a process which recycles the engines’ CO2-rich exhaust Photo: GE

This article presents edited extracts from the IEA Collaborative’s country profile for Russia. The publication itself is available from the IEA at: www.iea.org/G8/CHP/chp.asp.

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Outcut of an Jenbacher Type 6 engine (J 620) Photo: GE


Russia uses CHP generation extensively; it accounts for about a third of installed electricity generating capacity. In 2007, Russia had more than 700 electricity plants with a total generating capacity of 215 GW. Of this, thermal electricity plants and CHP represented 68% (145 GW) of installed capacity; hydroelectric plants 21% (46 GW); and nuclear 11% (24 GW). Russia has the largest and oldest district heating system in the world. More than 100 years old and comprising almost 500 CHP stations, 200,000 km of district heating pipeline network and more than 65,000 boiler houses, Russia’s municipal district heating systems are a legacy of the Soviet era on which most of the country’s urban population has come to depend on during the long and cold winter season.

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Although Russia’s installed capacity of CHP stations is among the largest in the world, there is little reliable data on their efficiency of energy use. There is also a lack of any governmental definition of high efficiency CHP, unlike in other countries such as the UK and in the European Union (EU). Furthermore, low investment and inadequate maintenance in Russia during the 1990s has severely decreased the reliability of heat supply in many systems. Below-cost pricing has also contributed to under-investment and poor maintenance, with an estimated 60% of the Russian network in need of major repair or replacement.

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More than half of the 200,000 km network of municipal heat distribution pipelines is estimated to have already passed its technical life expectancy. Some pipeline systems are 40-50 years old ” way beyond their 16-20 year technical life expectancy. About 25%-30% of the system is considered in critical condition. For this reason it is estimated that a minimum of 10%-12% of pipes need to be changed every year. Yet each year only about 1% of pipes are changed across the whole Russian network. Raising the investments needed to replace, repair and maintain this immense network is the key challenge facing Russia’s district heating system.

Another major challenge facing the development of CHP in Russia is the lack of an overall strategy and outlook for the heating sector. A draft law on the heat sector was discussed in the Russian State Duma in 2002 but was not passed into law and has since been neglected. This is especially a problem given the restructuring and privatization of the electricity sector during this time ” which was completed in 2008 ” to which the heat sector is so closely linked. Russian experts also point to the lack of trained and qualified personnel in the sector for day to day operation.

The lack of a long-term strategy for the sector is considered another major hurdle for its sustainable development. Heat tariffs in the residential sector are not cost-reflective. They are kept low for political reasons, given the inability of most of Russia’s residential population to pay higher rates. However, these low rates reduce the sector’s attraction to investors. Furthermore, heat tariffs based on norms, as opposed to actual use, hamper the effectiveness of measures to raise the efficiency of heat use and to reduce residential demand. The continued practice of cross-subsidizing heat tariffs between industry and the residential sector has driven some industries away from large CHP heat sources to decentralized heat boilers or mini-CHP.


In Russia about 30% of heat is produced by CHP plants. Heat-only boilers account for about 45% of total heat produced and decentralized sources (industrial or own-producers) account for the remaining share of heat produced. CHP is an integral part of Russia’s district heating system, providing heat and hot water to most of Russia’s urban population. Although there is a large share of heat produced by CHP in Russia, there is little available data on which to judge how efficient these plants are. Due to growing competition from decentralized sources of heat, many Russian CHP plants are run at only 40%-45% of their capacity.

IEA data from 1990 to 2007 (summarized in Figure 1, above), present the dramatic decrease in heat produced in Russia as a result of the decline in GDP growth over the market transition years of the 1990s. This lower output of heat has continued into this decade. This reflects an increasing use of decentralized heat systems as a more reliable source of heat or as a source of top-up heat when the district heating system does not provide adequate supply. Generation from CHP plants over this time declined by more than 30%. In 2007, total final consumption of heat in Russia fell to 58% of its 1993 level. This was due to a drop in heat consumption by the industrial sector by more than half, from 4117 petajoules in 1993 to 1867 petajoules in 2007. This fall occurred over the 1990s when Russia’s GDP almost halved during its transition to a market economy.

Since 2000, the residential sector has seen its heat consumption drop by 38%. This is largely due to the lack of reliability of the district heating systems and the fact that heat tariffs are calculated on a cost plus basis. As the average cost of the heating system (operating and maintenance costs) increased, more clients found it economic to seek decentralized sources of heat.

Figure 1 also reflects the dominant share of natural gas as an input fuel to produce heat in Russia. CHP plants in the European part of Russia ” where most of Russia’s large urban population centres are located ” are predominantly fuelled by natural gas (82%-83%). In Siberia and the Far East, electricity and CHP plants are predominantly fuelled by coal (81%-86%).

Russian industry is highly energy-intensive. In 2007, the industrial sector accounted for 50% of total electricity demand, a higher share than most other countries. Given its suitability for energy-intensive applications, just over half of Russia’s 500 CHP plants are based within the industrial sector. Together, the iron and steel sector (30%) and the chemical and petrochemical sector (21%) accounted for over half the industrial heat consumption in Russia in 2007 (see Figure 2). A legacy of the central planning of the Soviet system is that many major cities in Russia were centred on a major industry and thus the heat from the CHP could supply heat to the district heating system for the residential sector.


Russia has the world’s largest collection of district heating systems by far, with heat deliveries of about 1700 TWh in 2007, almost 10 times more than the next largest system, Ukraine (with a level just under 200 TWh) and Poland (just under 100 TWh in 2007). Accurate information on end-use demand of Russia’s district heating system does not exist due the lack of metering.

Over the period from 1998 to 2007, state CHP plants accounted for a declining share of heat produced in Russia, from a level of 35%-31%. About 60% of all heat produced in Russia was consumed in the residential (about 45%) and commercial and public (about 15%) sectors. Just under three-quarters (74%) of heat supplied in Russia is through district heating networks with the other quarter of the heat supplied in Russia by decentralized/individual heat sources. District heating networks supply heat to about 80% of Russian residential buildings and about 63% of the hot water used by the country’s population.

A large potential exists for energy savings in its district heating systems, especially through the reduction of losses from the network and implementation of energy efficiency measures. Given an estimated 20%-30% of heat is lost through the heat distribution network before it reaches the end consumer, focus on reducing these network losses would be an essential first step. Only after this stage is completed would the installation of meters and heat regulating devices to allow for demand-side management be effective.


Since the early 2000s there has been increasing momentum in refurbishing existing boiler houses with gas turbines or smaller-scale CHP units (capacity less than 25 MW). Most retrofitting to date used foreign technology. As of March 2007, about 120 of these units were operating across Russia. Bashkirenergo in Bashkortostan and Tatenergo in Tatarstan are the leaders in the use of micro- or smaller-scale CHP in Russia. These units have resulted not only in more efficient use of natural gas as an input fuel but also to lower emissions and a smaller impact on the environment.

This trend towards the increasing use of smaller-scale, gas-fired CHP in Russia seems positive as efficiencies are likely to be over 80%. It is this level of efficiency that should be sought throughout its installed CHP capacity.

There has been limited government involvement in the development of CHP in Russia. A legacy of its Soviet past, CHP was an integral part of central planning and the vast district heating network built to meet the heating and hot water needs of the Soviet people. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union and over the 1990s, lack of investment and government policy direction resulted in its deterioration.


Barriers to the future development of CHP in Russia are linked to the lack of focus by the federal government on the many challenges facing Russia’s heat sector itself. These include the need for:

  • refurbishment of the ageing district heat supply network to reduce system losses and enhance reliability
  • heat tariffs to cover the full cost of supply
  • the promotion by government of high efficiency industrial CHP
  • a coordinated and long-term strategy and policy outlook for the heat sector.


Russia has the largest heat network in the world, a legacy of its Soviet past. Were it to use this to its advantage, through a long-term policy outlook to refurbish and maintain, effectively cost and price the heat and allow end-users to regulate and reduce their consumption through regulators and monitors, its heat sector could flourish with all the related benefits this would bring in terms of energy savings, reduced impact on the environment, heightened energy security and comfort and quality of life of Russia’s population.

Russia consumes the equivalent of about 150 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas a year in its district heating system. Raising the efficiency of its CHP plants and reducing the losses along its district heating network could save about 20%-30% or 30-50 bcm a year. In 2004, an IEA Study: Coming in From the Cold estimated that with a stronger policy framework, district heating system in transition economies could save in generation alone the equivalent of 80 bcm of natural gas a year ” roughly the annual gas consumption in Germany. Raising heat tariffs and providing consumers a way to regulate their heat intake would generate additional savings, although difficult to quantify given the lack of meters and statistics on end-use heat demand in the residential sector.



Moscow heat supply system

Heat in Moscow is produced by 15 large CHP plants, 70 district and local heating plants (DHPs and LHPs), and 100 local boilers (LBs).Table 1, below, shows their capacity and production.

The primary heat/hot water network includes almost 2300 km of pipes with an average diameter of 570 mm, and 21 booster pump stations. Inside city sub-districts, Mosgorteplo operates over 4600 sub-stations and Mosteploenergoover 1200. From the sub-stations, secondary networks transfer heating and domestic hot water to buildings. The secondary networks include some 4400 km operated by Mosgorteplo and about 1245 km operated by Mosteploenergo. Equipment inside apartment houses includes a connection point in the basement; valves, filters, thermometers and manometers; pipes for heat and domestic hot water distribution; and radiators and/or convectors in individual apartments.

Individual apartments generally have no meters, although the installation of building meters is beginning. Mosgorteplo recently completed installing meters in all the sub-stations it manages.

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Steve Hodgson is the editor of COSPP
Email: cospp.editorial@pennwell.com