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The Republic of 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 9.5 million inhabitants. Minsk, the largest city, is the national capital and home to 20.6% of the population; 77.6% of the population is urban and 22.6% is rural.
Belarus has a diversified industrial profile. Despite a lack of natural resources and the economic crisis that followed the 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 160.97 billion in 2014, an increase of 71.4% since 2004.
However, little structural reform has occurred in the country since it gained independence, and foreign investment is relatively low. The long-standing 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 operated 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 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 energy policy does have direction, strong legislation and implementation tools are lacking. There is no long-term policy planning and/or analysis of different scenarios, and legislation on electricity and heat does not exist. At the end of 2016 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 operation of power systems of the CIS.
Energy Policies Beyond IEA Countries - Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia 2015
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