On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, starting a second brutal phase of the Ukrainian-Russian War that began in 2014. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered multiple chain reactions: a growing refugee crisis, unprecedented sanctions on Russia’s economy, and a realignment of global partnerships, including a reinvigorated NATO.
Another consequence of the Ukrainian-Russian War is the European race for renewable energies. At the Danish Siemens Gamesa plant in Aalborg, employees works inside a shallow, canoe-shaped pod that extends to the size of a football field. The crew, using laser markings, blaze the flanks with panels of balsa timber. The enormous blades are a preview of the energy future Europe is hurtling towards with sudden, hurried urgency. After two challenging years in which the European and global economy has been penalised by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian-Ukrainian war has caused, together with the many sanctions imposed on Russia’s economy by the West, gas and fossil fuel energy prices to skyrocket. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has made European leaders realise how dependent they were on the energy produced by Russia. European leaders have begun to shift their country’s investments away from Russian oil, gas and coal, turning more quickly toward clean energy sources like wind and solar. For example, in Germany, Europe’s most developed economy, leaders are planning to have several coal-fired power plants placed in reserve so that they would produce way fewer greenhouse emissions and could be quickly fired up if needed.
On May 18, the European Commission also proposed the REPowerEU Plan. The plan states: “we can significantly reduce our dependency on Russian fossil fuels already this year and accelerate the energy transition. Building on the Fit for 55 packages of proposals and completing the actions on energy security of supply and storage, this REPowerEU plan puts forward an additional set of efforts to save energy, diversify suppliers, quickly substitute fossil fuels by accelerating Europe’s clean energy transition, and smartly combine investments and reforms.” Together these actions will structurally transform the EU’s energy system by making it more independent from Russia’s energies and more sustainable.
The REPowerEU Plan is distinctive and breaks a long tradition of energy exchange between Russia and Europe. Europe started using Russia’s gas after World War II, when the Druzhba pipeline, the world’s lengthiest oil channel, was set up in 1964 to supply allies in the Eastern Bloc. Russia, thanks to its vast Siberian domains, has the world’s largest natural gas reserves. The country began exporting to Poland in the 1940s and laid channels in the 1960s to deliver fuel to and through the satellite states of what was then the Soviet Union. Even at the height of the Cold War, deliveries were steady and continuous.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the American government, led by president Ronald Reagan, tried to warn Europe, through which a new Soviet gas pipeline was to be built, about growing Russian influence. The former president worried that a Kremlin-controlled European natural gas channel would increase the USSR’s presence in Eastern and Western Europe. For this reason, during his first term in office, he unsuccessfully tried to prevent the construction of the natural gas pipeline between the USSR and Germany. Since the early 1980s, many European countries decommissioned their coal and nuclear power plants and production sites, increasingly relying on the gas, oil and energy produced by their neighbour Russia. By doing so, Europe not only lost its independence regarding energy production but also kept using resources which are highly dangerous for the planet.
Before the outburst of the conflict in February, Russian state-controlled company Gazprom was providing about a third of all gas consumed in Europe. A study conducted in 2021 showed the results of an investigation into Europe’s dependence on gas from Russia. The analysis showed that since the slowdown in Russian gas delivery, energy prices have tripled. In 2022, as the Russian-Ukrainian war escalated, European countries scrambled to find new gas suppliers due to the unsustainable costs.
The Russian-Ukrainian War made the European government and leaders realise they needed to break away from Russian gas and find renewable energies as soon as possible that could make them more independent. Although solar and wind energies are excellent replacements, there is a need for a more reliable and long-lasting substitute. A valid alternative is Green Hydrogen. Hydrogen is produced by using renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. It has the potential to supply clean energy for manufacturing and transport, and its only byproduct is water. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the entire universe, but hydrogen particles do not exist in nature by themselves. To obtain hydrogen, atoms need to be split from other components with which they occur. The different ways of decoupling define hydrogen energy’s sustainability. If the electricity is created by renewable power, the pollutant-free derivative is called Green Hydrogen.
Why is Green Hydrogen so essential? It is abundant, and its supply is limitless. It can be used on-site or transported somewhere else. Hydrogen can be made from renewable energy surplus and kept in large amounts for a long time. Pound for pound, Green Hydrogen holds three times as much energy as fossil fuels, so less of it is required to do any work. Besides, Green hydrogen can be produced wherever there is water and electricity to develop more electricity or heat. Green Hydrogen has multiple uses. It can be used in industry, stored in gas pipelines to power home devices, or it can transport renewable energy when transformed into a carrier, such as ammonia.
Since February 24, the European government and leaders have acknowledged their dependence on Russian gas and fuels. European dependence on Russian gas has a long history, with its origins dating back to the 1940s. The outbreak of war, the restrictions imposed on the Russian economy and energy by the Western world, and the subsequent rise in prices have made European leaders realise that they need to control their dependence on Russian gas. The war had made Europe scramble toward renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, to become more independent, as well as trying to fight the climate crisis. In such dire circumstances, it is essential to find a more reliable and long-lasting replacement, such as Green Hydrogen. Green Hydrogen has the potential to provide clean power for many human activities, making Europe independent from Russia’s gas, besides providing clean energy and an opportunity to contain the environmental crisis.