Europe’s energy dependence and the crisis in Ukraine
The European Energy Security Forum is held regularly every year on September 26th in Brussels, Belgium. This year, however, as a result of the crisis in Ukraine, the Forum drew more attention than in previous years. The Forum’s main topic of discussion was identifying ways in which renewable energy development can be accelerated so that Europe reduces its dependence on energy imports.
Regarding the current state of affairs, the Forum concluded that Europe’s dependence on energy imports has significantly increased in the last ten years. Today, approximately 60 percent of Europe’s demand for energy is covered by imports from other countries, mostly Russia (around 38 percent of gas, 35 percent of oil, and 25 percent of coal).
This extremely high dependence on energy imports means that the use of economic sanctions as a tool of foreign policy towards Russia is greatly constrained. This issue is particularly relevant today when the EU, together with the US, attempts to counter the aggressive behavior of Russia towards Ukraine. Practically, the EU cannot impose sanctions on Russian energy exports without causing a great damage to its own economy. Also, knowing that energy exports account for almost 80 percent of Russia’s total export revenues, it seems that energy is the only sector of the Russian economy where the effect of sanctions would be highly noticeable.
As an escape from this unpleasant state of energy dependence, the Forum suggested creation of a strategy that would reorient the use of energy towards renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Participants of the Forum believe that it is not technology of renewable energy that is an obstacle for this reorientation, but politics. They argue that renewable energy technology is “mature enough” to cover 60 -70 percent of Europe’s energy needs, which would be enough to provide more leeway in the EU’s foreign policy decision making. However, the politicians do not seem to be willing to support this reorientation. For example, Hans-Josef Fell, one of the most notable speakers in the conference, explains that German politicians mostly support the use of nuclear energy, although wind and solar energy are much cheaper. Fell argues that this is the “wrong road”, primarily because the uranium in large part comes from Russia, which further increases the EU’s dependence on this energy powerhouse.
For more information about the Forum, see this website:
Can Europe survive without Russian gas?