Energetic Sector of the European States and Their Dependence on Russian Energy Sources

After signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, the energy portfolio of most European countries began to include more renewable energy sources, thereby (most importantly with the perspective to the future) reducing the use of fossil fuels. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the volume of industry production, many companies and manufactories have closed, global tourism has stopped, which also affected the amount of fossil fuels that society used to need. Despite these trends, before the start of the Russian military actions in Ukraine, fossil fuels accounted for 72% of the energy balance of the European region (mainly oil products and gas). (Сторожев А. с. 37)

In 2020 within the Fit for 55 program it was proposed to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% in comparison with year 1990. Replacement of the fossil fuels with renewable energy sources requires ensuring the reliability of the energy system and in practice does not significantly change the amount of fossil fuels that we use as a society. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the need of energy returned on pre-pandemic levels. (Мур Ч., Браун С., Макдональд Ф., Эн М., Бродбент Х., Танбридж П., Юэн М., Фулгам Н.) However, it is worth mentioning that the trend towards the use of renewable energy sources in the energy balance of the European states is developing at a high speed. Since 2019, 52% of new renewable energy sources in the EU have replaced gas sources. But renewable energy sources (such as solar and wind power) are highly dependent on weather conditions, making their use less reliable. Spain, the Netherlands and Greece lead the growth in wind and solar energy use, while Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania lag behind. Unfortunately, despite the growth and trends towards renewable energy sources, the EU is still heavily dependent on Russian energy sources. From February 24 to April 2022, fossil fuel exports from Russia by sea and pipelines were estimated at 63 billion euros, 71% of this volume (44 billion euros) was accounted by the European Union. The largest European importers of Russian fossil fuels were Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and France. (Мельник С.) In 2021, fossil fuel prices in the EU have skyrocketed. A combination of factors pushed gas prices up to 585% which created the biggest price shock in Europe since the 1973 oil embargo. (Мур Ч., Браун С., Макдональд Ф., Эн М., Бродбент Х., Танбридж П., Юэн М., Фулгам Н.)

In connection with the above, it is worth noting that the use of nuclear energy would significantly help diversify the energy portfolio of the European Union, help achieve the goals set under the Paris Agreement faster and reduce dependence on Russian energy sources. However, the largest declines in nuclear generation since 2019 have been seen in France, Sweden and Germany. The long-term trend towards reducing the share of nuclear energy in the EU energy mix will significantly slow down the decarbonization of the energy industry. This is important because the International Energy Agency has proclaimed that to limit global warming by 1.5°C and prevent the negative effects of climate change, it is necessary that emissions are reduced by an average of 6% per year. (Мур Ч., Браун С., Макдональд Ф., Эн М., Бродбент Х., Танбридж П., Юэн М., Фулгам Н.) Though, emissions in the EU are falling 2.5 times slower than was recommended by the International Energy Agency.

The good news is that now, after Russia’s military attack on the territory of Ukraine and after the start of the energy crisis, many EU countries have undergone a radical review of the positions of nuclear generation towards its revival and further intensive development. Nevertheless, at the COP international climate conferences we can see how difficult it is for the world community to agree on key issues related to the energy balance. (Федун Л., Сонин А.) Hopefully, COP27 which will be held in November in Sharm el-Sheikh, will lead to more concrete agreements also in connection with Russia’s military actions on the territory of Ukraine and the energy policy of the Russian government.

In conclusion, the development of nuclear energy would contribute to the accelerated implementation of plans for energy transition to cleaner energy sources, but investments in gas projects on the other hand would allow maintaining sufficient diversification of the EU energy market to prevent energy crises in the future. (Шуранова А. А., Петрунин Ю. Ю. c. 86)