Andres Fernandez (MARS-REEERS) published an article on "The Real Future of Green Energy in Kazakhstan" in The Diplomat (Jan. 12, 2018). Fernandez conducted research in the region during summer 2017 as a Padma Desai Fellow.
From the opening of Fernandez's article:
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev welcomed the New Year by touting key accomplishments of the past year, namely the Astana Expo 2017, which in his words granted the country more “global recognition and respect.” With its theme of “Future Energy,” the Expo demonstrated the Kazakh government’s purported commitment to green energy solutions as part of a broader national development strategy. However, the viability of such projects is limited, indicating a more immediate motive of projecting the image of a forward-looking Kazakhstan before Western audiences.
At the onset of the Expo, the government of Kazakhstan announced an economic transformation centered on sustainable development, greater foreign investment, and a push toward renewable energy. This was a remarkable statement given the fact that since independence Kazakhstan’s economy has been driven by the extractive industry, with oil accounting for 50 percent of the country’s GDP in 2017. Sitting on the 11th-largest proven oil reserves in the world, Kazakhstan’s abundant natural resource wealth has been the key to rapid development and enrichment of the state.
As a rentier state heavily dependent on the export of oil, Kazakhstan’s energy security is vulnerable to external economic shocks, such as the 2014 drop in oil prices. The sudden and drastic decrease of revenue signaled a vulnerability of the government, undermining its legitimacy as a provider of development and prosperity for the nation. The country also suffers from issues commonly associated with rentier states, such as economic growth that is not sustainable in the long term, a high level of corruption and inefficient management of resources, plus growing social inequality, as the oil sector often fails to create many jobs and suppresses the development of other sectors.