United in Diversification? The case of energy diversification during the Ukraine-Russian War.

, by Juanita Galea

United in Diversification? The case of energy diversification during the Ukraine-Russian War.
Oil rigs at sea. Credit: Freepik

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily be reflective of JEF Malta as a whole.

Since Russia’s engagement in Ukraine, Western States have been working towards moving away from their traditional Russian oil and gas imports, to other less / non-politically toxic sources of energy. Although the contemporary European sphere is not necessarily a stable one, this difficult period has the potential to accelerate the transition towards clean energy.

Over the last weeks Europeans, as well as the rest of the international community, have been left to look on with horror towards Europe’s eastern flank, with Russian forces invading Ukraine’s territory. Homes have been destroyed and countless lives have been lost, as Ukranians are firmly defending their nation state from the dreams of a State’s age-old aspiration of territorial expansion.

This war has not only displaced millions of people, but also brought about major changes within the energy field. Historically, many states have looked to Russia as a source of oil and gas, leading it to take on the role of one of the world’s top exporters of fossil fuels. In an attempt to decrease dependence on Russia alone, the European Union has committed to reducing imports of Russian gas by ⅔ by the end of 2022. The Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, asserted that such a task is by no means an easy one, however, it is possible.

Environmental awareness, climate change and sustainable development are buzz-words all too familiar to us. Addressing climate change and subsequently attempting to mitigate its effects have risen as top agenda items across most of the world. Governments are no longer able to ignore the call for change in practice– or else they would have to answer to a generation of youth who would ultimately be shouldering the burdens of bad environmental policy (or rather, its lack thereof).

Ukraine has facilitated the acceleration of necessity for the government to seek out energy alternatives. However, such a spotlight does not directly translate to the political class suddenly embarking upon green politics. One of the most pertment questions which should be tackled is the direction in which policy makers shall take. Will we be witness to a renewed strive towards the use of renewable energy, or will the desire to appease triumph– leading to the exploitation of domestic fossil fuels and the search for alternative gas and oil suppliers?

Energy-related problems did not start with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On the contrary, following the post-pandemic economic recovery-boom, by September 2021 the demand for oil and gas led to an increase in their respective prices. It is fair to note that the pandemic itself created an opportunity to stir our energy sector towards a more green path. Global carbon emissions decreased drastically during 2020. This gave the push necessary to tie together covid recovery plans to a more sustainable and green outlook.

Following the COP26 summit, discussions seemed to be heading in the right direction– moving away from mere dialogue to actual practical commitments. Mounting international pressure to sanction Russian imports led to the halting of the Nord Stream 2 project. This was one of this year’s defining moments within Europe’s energy sector.

In order to attempt to answer the question, we must divert our attention to the EU’s new energy strategy, announced last month. This document refers to improved energy efficiency, the twin renewable giants of wind and solar power and a renewed motivation to move away from Russian imports. Although undoubtedly a step in the right direction, the strategy looks towards new sources of gas rather than proposing a direct commitment to phase them out quickly. Therefore, the Union is centring its strategy around energy source diversification, rather than making gas a thing of the past.

In spite of the challenges the world is facing with regard to energy production and energy sourcing, the future does seem bright. If we were to speak about longer-term solutions, the decarbonisation agenda seems to move in tandem (and ultimately converge) with the energy security agenda.

Russia itself has done assessments of its own, coming to the conclusion that there must be a gradual shift towards cleaner fuels. It hoped to direct its role as an energy provider, towards hydrogen-based services. However, the invasion in Ukraine has created substantial hurdles for this emerging sector.

Nuclear energy in Europe has not met its timely commitments. France is the EU Member State with the largest number of nuclear power stations, yet the latter are expected to have lower outputs with many stations described as ‘ageing’. Furthermore, many States exhibit scepticism of nuclear energy. Germany is at the forefront of this shared scepticism, choosing to focus on renewable energy sources instead. Christian Lindner, Germany’s finance minister, has noted that politicians seem to be talking more in terms of energy self-sufficiency, referring to renewables as the “energy of freedom”.

Lessons Learnt:

The strive for energy diversification is by no means a negative for environmental activists across the globe. On the contrary, it is a step towards further commitments to sustainability and a crucial safety net to avoid a dangerous dependence on a handful of states alone. In spite of this, it is important to bear in mind that energy diversification is simply not enough. Commitments to transition to renewable energies must be made – and more importantly, followed up in practice.

Your comments

Warning, your message will only be displayed after it has been checked and approved.

Who are you?

To show your avatar with your message, register it first on gravatar.com (free et painless) and don’t forget to indicate your Email addresse here.

Enter your comment here

This form accepts SPIP shortcuts {{bold}} {italic} -*list [text->url] <quote> <code> and HTML code <q> <del> <ins>. To create paragraphs, just leave empty lines.

Follow the comments: RSS 2.0 | Atom