Wire cage for Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Photo: Nord Stream AG.
Dossier
14 Apr 2022, 17:12
Ending dependence on Russian fossil fuels

Putin’s war against Ukraine and its implications for the German and EU energy transition

The outbreak of war in Ukraine is shaking the foundation of Europe's energy and security architecture, as a decade-old reliance on Russian fossil fuel imports could come to an end. Germany in particular has made trade with Russia a bedrock of its energy strategy, planning to heavily rely on imported gas in its transition towards a climate neutral economy – an outcome that appears increasingly unlikely after Russia's president Vladimir Putin ordered the largest military invasion in Europe's post-World War history. Putin's attack has triggered a rapid reorientation in Germany's as well as the EU's energy supply strategy, with ideas ranging from diversifying fossil fuel imports via LNG deliveries and prolonged running times for coal and nuclear power plants, to a fast and determined expansion of renewable power sources on grounds of national security. This dossier provides an overview, background and rolling coverage of the effects that Putin's war and the ensuing economic sanctions imposed on Russia have on energy supply, the energy transition and climate action in Germany and Europe.

Ukraine war: Tracking the impacts on German energy and climate policy

The war in Ukraine forces Germany to radically rethink its energy policy, given that the country is heavily dependent on Russian fossil fuels. In first reactions, Germany put the contentious Nord Stream 2 pipeline project on hold, announced the creation of strategic coal and gas reserves, committed to building terminals for the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and agreed to support the ousting of Russian banks from the SWIFT payments system. The government has also pledged to speed up the shift to renewables in a bid to become more independent from energy imports. This article tracks key developments of Germany's energy and climate response to the war.

Read the tracking piece here.

The practical challenges of an embargo on Russian oil

Russian oil supplies could be part of a next sanctions package to weaken Russian president Vladimir Putin's regime for waging war on Ukraine. While trade in many products has already been curbed, reducing the import of fossil fuels has been among the most difficult decisions for the EU. European countries are highly dependent on Russian coal, oil and gas, albeit to different degrees. While repeatedly warning that cutting off Russian gas supplies could lead to lasting economic damage for Europe, the German government has agreed with other European states to wean the bloc off Russian hard coal and said that becoming independent from Russian oil is more difficult but could be achieved by the end of the year. This factsheet compiles information on the practical challenges this would mean for the German oil infrastructure, refineries and security of supply.

Read the factsheet here.

Q&A: How can renewables enable Germany's energy independence push?

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has added a new dimension to Germany’s ambitious aims for ramping up the share of renewables in its energy system. Marking a “historic turning point,” the fast elimination of fossil fuel imports for Germany practically overnight shifted from being a moral obligation and long-term environmental protection measure to a question of national security and short-term economic stability. Wind power, solar PV, bioenergy, hydropower and other renewable power sources since have become labelled “freedom energies” that can enable the country to vastly reduce its energy dependence and form the bedrock for decarbonising the economy. This Q&A looks at plans for the transition to a power system based on 100 percent renewables and what can be done to speed it up.

Q&A: How could Germany and the EU weather a fossil fuel embargo on Russia?

As president Vladimir Putin continues to wage war in Ukraine and the U.S. is preparing to ban all oil imports from Russia, calls are getting louder for Germany and Europe to follow Washington’s lead. European countries are paying Russian energy suppliers close to one billion euros per day for coal, oil and gas, thereby indirectly financing Putin’s war chest. But the scale of mainland Europe’s dependence on Russian oil differs markedly from that of North America, and any decision to cut energy ties with Russia now will likely end supplies for years to come. This Q&A explores the conditions under which Germany could make itself independent from Russian fossil fuels.

Read the Q&A here.

German govt’s climate policy has been through baptism of fire in first 100 days

The new German three-party coalition under chancellor Olaf Scholz had started its term at the end of last year with optimism to launch a vigorous climate action programme after two difficult years in a pandemic. But the “traffic light coalition” of Scholz’s SPD, the Greens and the pro-business FDP was not granted an easy start, as its first 100 days in office saw the first outbreak of a major international war in Europe since 1939. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has let Scholz’ government little onboarding time, instead prompting it into one of the sharpest u-turns in energy and security policy in decades. But while the war that has brought great misery to Ukraine also confounded German and European policy plans, the government still enjoys credit among voters that it can deliver change. Yet, the dangerous spiral of rising prices needs to be addressed if this support is to be sustained, observers warn.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forces Germany to come clean on energy transition strategy

The outbreak of war in eastern Europe is sending shockwaves through Germany’s political class and is reshaping the energy transition debate, as the country’s most important energy trading partner Russia increasingly turns into a liability to international security. Plans to enable the country’s ambitious energy transition in part with the help of Russian gas may well evaporate if the spiraling conflict severs ties between the EU and Moscow. The suspension of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project has given a first taste. Calls are increasing for revisiting plans to exit nuclear and coal-fired power production in light of possible supply shocks, but also the view that renewables are a strategic asset is finding new supporters. Energy researchers and economists say Germany’s government and industry now face a moment of reckoning that forces them to set out a clear and determined path to climate neutrality.

Read the analysis here.

Solar and wind rollout doesn't depend on Russian exports but e-cars do – German industry

The rollout of solar panels and wind turbines is unlikely to be hampered by supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine, but the production of electric cars could take a hit, German business associations told Clean Energy Wire. The country's solar and wind industries said they don't depend on supply chains that involve Russia or Ukraine. But the car industry warned that the war is already disrupting production and could interfere with the transition to electric mobility, as battery production depends on Russian nickel. 

Europe's gas crisis - boon or bane for climate policy ambitions?

Europe is experiencing new extremes in energy price hikes, caused by strong demand for natural gas during the economic recovery from the pandemic and exacerbated by geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West. Just as the European Union and the new German government aim to focus on achieving ambitious emission reduction goals by the end of the decade, coal is getting an unwelcome boost in the German energy mix. Seeing households and businesses faced with inflated energy bills, almost all European governments have introduced relief schemes to help consumers afford the expensive fossil fuels to heat their homes. The factsheets in this dossier explain what causes the rise in energy prices, what Germany does to help households, and how the government is planning to ensure a secure energy supply in the future while sticking to its climate targets.

Find the dossier with several factsheets here.

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