Outlook on Green Energy Sources and Policies Around the World
In December 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed, marking a turning point in reducing global warming and combating climate change. The signatories pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while setting ambitious time frames. (United Nations – climate change) Despite the global trend, which also manifests itself in the strengthening positions of green parties in the national parliaments of the leading countries, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that natural resources have always been and still are the foundation of world economic development. The energy portfolio of countries also plays a big role in ensuring national security, which became absolutely obvious after Russia started a full-scale war in Ukraine and today uses energy as one of its weapons. The energy stability of the state also directly affects the state of the economy, which is expressed through inflation, unemployment and the financial stability of households. Thus, a reasonable interaction between industrial, scientific, technical and social institutions is necessary to ensure sustainability and security of the state. (Энергетические войны как угроза национальной безопасности государства, стр. 7)
In order to achieve global climate goals, stakes were placed on the use of clean energy sources. Nevertheless, this has not led to a sufficient effect in Europe, the U.S. and China (in China in 2020 green energy accounted for only 9% of the energy portfolio, while traditional energy sources accounted for 68%). For example, coal remains the foundation of the energy system of China and India, whose population is 35.8% of the total world population. And while China has pledged to gradually reduce its dependence on coal and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, India will instead increase the share of coal in its energy balance. (Энергетические войны как угроза национальной безопасности государства, стр. 12)
It is worth mentioning that the ownership of energy resources is one of the strongest strategic importance in international relations. In times of crisis, energy resources become real assets, just like securities, real estate or money. Ownership and proper use allow a country to take a strong position and dictate its rules in the international arena. In this regard we should consider the fact that only 3 states – Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Canada have 47.5% of world oil reserves. Only 3 states – Russia, Iran and Qatar have 53.5% of the world’s gas reserves. Similarly, only 3 states, the United States, Australia, and China, have 50.4% of the world’s coal reserves. The EU has only 0.4% of the world’s oil, 0.9% of its gas and 6.5% of its coal reserves.
Most of the countries mentioned above have a non-democratic form of government and, therefore, will use energy as a tool to achieve their political goals. Unfortunately, this is also accompanied by the fact that the current trend of green politics in the EU countries and a clear decrease in energy production have not become an obstacle to increasing imports of coal, gas and oil from the outside. (Энергетические войны как угроза национальной безопасности государства, стр. 13-16)
Therefore, reducing Europe’s dependence on traditional energy resources would not only reduce vulnerability and help to achieve climate goals, but could also be a powerful political response, since, for example, Russia’s economy is very dependent on fuel exports. The lion’s share of the reduction in dependence could come from a transition to nuclear power. In this regard, the focus should be on cooperation between partners in the construction of new maneuverable reactors and the introduction of small modular nuclear reactor technology. Although it is the nuclear power that has the potential to meet such a challenge, Germany is not about to change its position of abandoning nuclear power – according to the plan, the last two nuclear power plants were supposed to cease operation by the end of 2022. Nevertheless, amid the current energy crisis, it was decided to extend their operation on standby at least until April 2023. The nuclear power plants will be ready for operation and fully staffed, but will not produce electricity unless there is an urgent need. (The Gurdian, 2022).
Despite the fact that since 2019 global oil and coal prices began to fall, natural gas and renewable energy will be in great demand in the near future due to global trends (consequently, the position of countries that export these energy resources will strengthen). Renewable energy sources will not be able to meet global energy demand and are directly dependent on weather conditions. Climate change has contributed to lower water levels in rivers (resulting in lower power for hydro turbines) and has accompanied frequent variable weather conditions (resulting in lower efficiency of solar panels and wind farms). Dependence on natural gas, on the other hand, brings into question energy security and leads to unreasonably high speculative prices. In practice, this leads to the fact that Russia is able to blackmail EU countries by threatening to reduce gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which has a direct impact on energy prices as well as changes in public behavior due to higher prices for households (e.g. protests in Prague on September 3, 2022).
In conclusion, to achieve the climate goals, the transition to clean energy and the rejection of energy resources imported mainly from politically unfavorable partners, attention should be paid to the following:
Cooperation among partners and long-term rather than emergency solutions are needed in the first place.
Reasonable investments in energy storage and distribution systems, electrification of industry and transport, energy efficiency, etc. are necessary.
The EU approaches the issue based on the principle of solidarity, which in practice means a united solution to common problems. But despite the EU’s attempts to stop the consequences of Russia’s actions on the global energy market (specifically, the European Commission’s proposal to reduce electricity consumption by at least 5% during certain peak price hours; a temporary restriction of income of electricity producers and assistance to the most vulnerable segments of the population) – the price of gas is rising as well as the price of electricity. (European Commission. Energy prices: Commission proposes emergency market intervention to reduce bills for Europeans) None of the proposed measures alone will be sufficient to reduce electricity prices and ensure the EU’s energy supply and energy security. The solution to these problems would be in a comprehensive transition to alternative energy production across the European continent, and nuclear energy could play a key role in this process.