Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could force Europe to delay key decarbonization efforts for up to a decade, a prominent regional energy expert has warned in Greece.
“They don’t have many choices left,” said Roudi Baroudi, CEO of Doha-based Energy and Environment Holding, an independent consultancy. “Unless some European countries pull out all the stops, much of the continent could soon be looking at crippling shortages, prohibitively high prices, or both.”
Now that Europe is moving to reduce imports of Russian oil and gas, he explained, some of the measures expected to reduce carbon emissions may have to be put off “for eight, nine, maybe 10 years,” as would planned shutdowns of nuclear generating stations.
“The European Union will need to provide the necessary permissions in some cases, plus financing in others,” he said. “Eight to 10 nuclear plants and as many as 30 coal stations slated for decommissioning will have to remain online to keep up with electricity demand, and several projects required to replace Russian gas will need to be accelerated with additional funding and/or guarantees.”
If and when gas stops flowing through pipelines from Russia, Baroudi told the 7th Delphi Economic Forum last week, “it cannot be replaced by simply ordering more liquefied natural gas from Qatar, the US, and/or other producers. Europe doesn’t have enough receiving facilities to re-gasify such huge amounts, which is why efforts to expand capacity in Germany and the Netherlands are so urgent.”
Coordinated releases of strategic oil reserves by the US and other countries are helping to contain upward pressure on crude and other energy prices, he said, but reasonable levels “cannot be maintained unless more supply makes it to market and that means oil producers –primarily OPEC but others as well – have to start pumping more.”
On yet another front, “Spain has both spare LNG receiving capacity and an undersea pipeline for imports of gas from North Africa – but very little of that can reach the rest of Europe unless and until a new pipeline connects the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of Europe via France,” said Baroudi, who has been advising companies and governments on energy policy for decades. “Paris has recently voiced new openness to that idea, but the EU can and should do more to facilitate it. It should also do more to establish an agreed route for another pipeline to carry gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Greece and/or Turkey.”
Baroudi also argued that the EU would be wise to ensure adequate capital flows into renewables such as wind and solar. “We might have to retain fossil fuels longer than we had planned, but that’s no reason to stop funding a cleaner future,” he said. “In fact it’s a reason to move as quickly as possible.”
“The whole situation is very sad,” he added. “Ever since the Paris Agreements of 2015, and especially since the Glasgow climate summit last year, Europe had been on the right track to be ready for a decarbonized economy. But now those plans are being pushed temporarily to the back burner. Apart from the lives being lost in the fighting, the energy and economic implications will mean severe hardships across the continent, especially for lower-income people. And much of the cause is due to the fact that Europe had delays to diversify its sources of supply. Now it finds itself scrambling to prevent an economic disaster.”