Key to Europe’s future energy security is rebuilding Ukraine’s Infrastructure with renewable energy.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has had many detrimental side-effects, including soaring profits for the fossil-fuel industry and an unprecedented energy crisis. Amid these challenges, however, there lies an opportunity for Ukraine, as well as other European nations and the United States, to expedite the revolutionary shift towards renewable energy sources.
In the case of Ukraine, aside from supporting its existing infrastructure while combating Russia, investment in clean, decentralised and sustainable energy is urgent. Low-cost, quick to build and insulated from the many security risks of fossil-fuel reliance, solar and wind power can enhance the stability of Ukraine’s current power supplies and form the backbone of its reconstructed energy system. Such projects will have to be internationally financed while the war continues.
The geopolitical turmoil resulting from Russia’s brutal invasion has led to a substantial increase in renewable-energy adoption within the European Union. In May last year, the EU launched its REPowerEU plan, to reduce reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
The plan aims to raise the proportion of renewables in total final energy consumption to 45 per cent by 2030. In 2022, solar and wind energy accounted for over a fifth (22 per cent) of the EU’s electricity, surpassing fossil gas (20 per cent) for the first time. A recent Oxford University report found that the EU could completely replace Russian gas with renewable energy and heat pumps by 2027 and offset up to 90 per cent of the cost.
Last Tuesday in London, at the side-event accompanying the Ukraine Recovery Conference, together with leading experts and high-level officials, Razom (Together) We Stand presented a new report outlining Ukraine’s renewable-energy potential, its role in Europe’s future energy security and how it will contribute to realising the European Green Deal.
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Scope to expand
Ukraine’s power system was synchronised with its EU neighbours on February 23 2022, hours before the invasion. Additional transmission capacity between Poland and Ukraine was established in April this year through the Rzeszów–Khmelnytskyi power line and there are further prospects for interconnection. Analysis by Ember in May shows how a connection spanning from Estonia to Bulgaria will make for a cheaper, more stable electricity grid—with the ability to share wind, solar, hydroelectric and nuclear power.
Prior to the invasion, nuclear provided almost 60 per cent of Ukraine’s electricity. Generation from fossil fuels was around a quarter, while solar, wind and hydro combined accounted for 15 per cent. There is a lot of scope for renewable generation to expand—particularly solar, which generated only 5 per cent of Ukraine’s electricity, and wind, accounting for about 1 per cent.
Solar is particularly quick to deploy and can provide decentralised power, much needed amid disruption to the grid from Russian aggression. Current initiatives to equip hospitals, water-pumping stations and other utilities in Ukrainian cities with solar panels and batteries provide give good examples of an emergency response, combined with investment in the long-term resilience of critical infrastructure.
Ukrainian legislators and government are now working diligently to create the conditions for investments in renewable energy and implementing reforms to enable restoration and green transformation of the energy system. The relevant draft law (#9011-d) passed its first hearing in May, with its second hearing and signing into law by the president, Volodomyr Zelenskyy, expected next month.
Ukraine has installed more onshore wind power (114 megawatts) since the start of the war than has, say, England (1MW). This new capacity has provided enough clean electricity to power about 200,000 homes, just 60 miles from the front line, in the southern region of Mykolaiv. Accelerated deployment of solar and wind will help meet Ukraine’s renewable-power target of at least 30 per cent by 2030. Strategic investment can boost the share of renewables in its energy mix, bringing it into line with the ambition of many European countries with higher targets.
Recent research indicates that a reconstruction of the economy after the war prioritising decarbonisation, compared with continued reliance on fossil fuels, would require only 5 per cent more capital investment, under very conservative assumptions. It would be well worth it, given the innumerable economic, climate and health benefits a green pathway will bring.
The Institute for Economics and Forecasting of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine has modelled two recovery scenarios. One involves restoring the pre-war, fossil-fuel-based economic system, while the other entails complete decarbonisation of the economy by 2050, as outlined in the European Green Deal. This would eliminate Ukraine’s dependence on fossil-fuel imports, resulting in positive effects on the balance of payments. Additionally, toxic emissions of ash dust from coal-fired power plants would fall, leading to a decrease in indirect losses caused by environmental pollution, including reduced morbidity and mortality, estimated at 0.7-1.3 per cent of gross domestic product or $1.1-2.1 billion per year.
Ukraine has the potential to produce 30 per cent of Europe’s biomethane and possesses favourable conditions for the development of solar power plants. It also boasts one of the highest wind-generation potentials, including offshore resources. According to the World Bank, Ukraine’s offshore wind potential alone amounts to 251GW. The Institute of Renewable Energy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine calculated that the country’s total technical potential for renewable energy is 874GW.
The courage of Ukrainians is protecting Europe and the world today—and tomorrow, with international support, we can build real energy security in Europe, based on renewables, energy efficiency and regional co-operation. To fulfil the goal of the European Green Deal and make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent, we need to join forces.