A growing number of European companies have expanded into Kazakhstan, bringing new technologies and working with local companies to develop solutions specific to the local market. And as Astana prepares to host the EXPO-2017 world fair, Ambassador Aurelia Bouchez, head of the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan, says there are big opportunities for European companies eager to bring their experience to Kazakhstan, particularly in the area of energy efficiency.
Kazakhstan's government is pursuing a wide-reaching diversification strategy, with both state-owned and private companies branching out into new industrial sectors. The oil and gas sector, which continues to form the backbone of the economy, also requires new technologies to extract oil and gas in often challenging conditions. These factors have created a "golden opportunity" for European companies, which are already active in sectors including energy, medical, engineering and machine building, according to Bouchez.
"European companies are in the lead in a number of new technologies, and are now working with Kazakhstani companies on innovative approaches. This is already happening and it is clear that the potential is far from exhausted," Bouchez tells bne on the sidelines of the Astana Economic Forum on May 23.
While there is some straightforward technology transfer, adapting to the specific conditions and needs of Kazakhstan has led to new technologies and approaches being developed for the local market, often in collaboration with Kazakhstani companies. "Even in more traditional activities, technologies that have been developed and tested in Europe or another part of the world are being further improved in Kazakhstan, as they have to adapt to the local conditions," Bouchez says.
The selection of Astana to host EXPO-2017, with the theme "Energy of the Future", is expected to give further stimulus to efforts to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency in Kazakhstan. "I am sure that EXPO-2017 will be a major opportunity to stimulate, foster and implement innovation, and I am convinced that European companies can be one of the main sources of innovative approaches, applied in particular to the field of energy efficiency," says Bouchez. "Energy saving has been a priority in Europe since the first energy crisis in the 1970s taught us that energy is something precious. Climate change concerns then reinforced this understanding."
Unlike Europe, Kazakhstan with its abundant reserves of fossil fuels, does not face imminent energy shortages, but there are still plans to tap into the benefits of energy saving technologies. Bouchez considers the country has "huge potential" for greater energy efficiency, which, she points out, "can be considered as a source of energy because the biggest energy "reserve" in the world is all the energy that is spent in a non-rational manner."