What does Russia’s invasion mean for the energy crisis?
How will Russia’s invasion of Ukraine impact the energy crisis, and how can we reduce our reliance on Russian energy sources?
As countries around the world impose sanctions on Russia, the escalating energy crisis and the threat of a third world war has highlighted Europe’s reliance on Russian oil. Both in times of conflict and peace, gas and oil are the two most important bargaining chips.
Context: How is Russia’s invasion linked to the energy crisis?
Despite imposing sanctions against the Russian central bank and the trade of dual-use goods, as well as excluding Russia from the Swift financial system, freezing Russian assets, and closing their airspaces to Russian planes, the oligarchy still has valuable leverage over the West.
European countries heavily rely on Russian energy sources for heat, light, electricity, and fuel. This interdependent relationship began in the late 1960s and continues to this day, with Russia currently providing around 40% of Europe’s gas imports and 25% of oil imports. It is also the world’s third-largest exporter of coal.
But how does this relate to the conflict? As the Russia-Ukraine war escalates, the West is faced with a dilemma. Despite making moves to freeze Russian assets and isolate Russia financially, the EU is restricted in terms of the severity of the sanctions they can impose.
Although very unlikely, EU leaders must also consider the threat that Putin will turn off the taps himself. Restricting Europe’s access to fuel before we are ready to make the move to cleaner energy sources would have catastrophic consequences and has been branded an ‘act of war’ by geopolitical writers.
How has the conflict affected global energy supplies?
It’s easy to think of the worst-case scenario, especially when we are seeing such devastating scenes play out across news channels and social media platforms. In the event of a third world war, there is of course a major risk that key pipelines would be destroyed, disrupting the transportation of gas and oil.
But for Italy and Germany, the energy crisis has already hit home. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline project was due to go live this year, enabling the swift transportation of natural gas from the Russian coast directly to Lubmin, Germany.
As a result of the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, and energy-giant Shell withdrawing their financial backing, the Nord Stream 2 project has now been suspended.
The conflict has highlighted a lack of infrastructure for both Germany and Italy, who are Europe’s largest importers of natural gas respectively. Both governments have responded by looking to ramp up domestic production, although this is no quick fix, and are seeking imports from other routes such as the United States. Germany has also announced plans to reverse the closure of nuclear power plants.
How is the invasion affecting energy markets and consumer bills?
Since the Russian invasion on the 24th of February, ordinary households and businesses are already feeling the pinch of rising energy prices.
As the world economy seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of living has been steadily increasing, but the snowballing energy crisis is causing an even steeper increase in consumer bills as wholesale gas and oil prices soar dramatically throughout Europe.
Is clean energy the solution?
Right now we are faced with a looming energy crisis, but the climate crisis is still an incredibly prominent threat. One way Europe could rapidly reduce its reliance on Russian energy is by investing in renewable energy sources.
The European Green Deal is a policy passed in 2019 that aims to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050. This outlined a roadmap whereby EU countries will remove their dependence on coal by 2030, followed by oil and gas, in favor of cleaner energy sources. The tensions with Russia have accelerated the EU’s plans, with strategists now looking to achieve this within eight years.