How the European Union can reduce its dependency on Russian energy

The dependence on Russian energy (oil and gas) is a national security risk which EU cannot afford

A flame combusing gas. The blue flame is characteristic of the combustion of either petroleum gas and natural gas. Photo Source: Arivumathi / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0 INT)

Is a fact that Russia is seen in the European Union as a threat to the national security of many countries in the bloc, and in the entire West, much because of the recent actions done by Russia, including its aggression in Ukraine — although sanctions against Russia for the continued aggression are already in place; and because of their active measures against most of the West, including funding far-right parties in Europe; meddling in the elections of countries in Europe and the United States (by spreading disinformation — in Russian, dezinformatsiya — about a certain candidate which Vladimir Putin doesn’t like or sees that is a threat to him), and even there’s the possibility, and the suspicion, that Russia may have meddled in the EU referendum in UK, in favour of UK leaving the bloc (as Russia, in my opinion, always wanted).

But there’s another unknown risk to the national security of EU and the West: The continued purchase of Russian oil and gas, and its continued dependency on it. Here’s some ideas on how reducing its dependency.

  1. Purchasing energy from other countries and forming a Energy Union

This is the easiest way to reduce the dependency on the Russian natural gas and Russian oil: Purchasing energy from other countries. For example, the oil can be purchased — instead of being acquired from Russia — from Norway, Brazil, Nigeria, UAE, United States (although has Donald Trump as President, which, in my opinion, can make the things worse), or Canada.

The natural gas can be purchased — again, instead of being adquired from Russia — from Algeria, Nigeria, Qatar, Norway, Canada or United States. This can reduce the dependency on Russian hydrocarbons by a considerable margin, if correctly done.

Another option is to withdrawn from investments in pipelines which connect Europe to Russia, like NordStream 2, which in my opinion, will increase the dependency on hydrocarbons of that origin, thus being counterproductive to the efforts of reducing the dependency on Russian hydrocarbons.

Forming a EU-wide Energy Union, with a unified energy policy, also with the possibility of collective purchasing natural gas and oil from another source, beside Russia, alongside allocating unused power from a EU member state to another, is another option to be considered, since it can also contribute to increase EU’s energy security, thus contributing to reduce the dependency in not just Russian energy, but also in fossil fuels, since the increasing the investment in renewables could be also part of the Energy Union considerations.

2. Increasing the investment on renewables

Is a fact that renewable energies is a way to decrease the overall dependency in every kind of fossil fuel, thus heping even more in the reduction of the CO2 emmissions to the atmosphere. Good examples of renewable energies which the EU countries have been investing are wind energy (wind farms exist throughout Europe) and solar (termic & photovoltaic) energy — which is also a popular source of energy, specially in Spain, Germany, Italy — a country which has one of the highest levels of solar potential in Europe — and France. One of the biggest solar power plants in the World is located in Portugal, at Serpa, in the heart of the Alentejo region.

But if the investment on the renewable energies increase considerably, they can be also a good way to reduce the use of Russian-sourced energy, since it’ll be less need for fossil fuels to provide electricity to the communities throughout EU, assuring a higher overall energy independence throughout the bloc. Combined with the purchase of natural gas and oil from other sources beside Russia, and/or the introduction of advanced nuclear energy, the dependency on Russian natural gas and oil can be reduced by 70%, in my opinion.

The Serpa solar power plant, one of the biggest photovoltaic solar plants in Europe and in the World, which is able to produce up to 11 megawatts of electrical energy. Photo Source: Ceinturion / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0 INT)

3. The advanced nuclear energy: Not intimidating at all

The next way to reduce the dependence on Russian hydrocarbons is the most fascinating: advanced nuclear.

First, I’ll explain what is advanced nuclear energy: advanced nuclear energies are energies which use a new generation of nuclear reactors, which can be safer than the earlier generation of nuclear reactors used to produce electrical energy, thanks to advances in technology which refined those aspects in the matter of operation safety & in the overall operation of those kind of reactors.

One of those reactors is the molten salt reactor (MSR), which uses as a coolant, or as a fuel itself, a special molten salt mixture, reducing the risk of contamination in case of an malfunction of the reactor, since it uses gravity to cool down.

Other kinds of advanced nuclear reactors can eliminate the need of enriching uranium and stockpiling enriched uranium (uranium-235), since they could generate energy from depleted uranium (uranium-238), reducing the overall proliferation risk of those kinds of radioactive material.

And what this has to do with reducing the dependency on Russian oil and gas?

These kinds of energy can increase the independence on the Russian oil and gas, since nuclear power inherently helps meeting the important matter of energy independence. And with the advanced nuclear energy, that objective can be achieved at a higher level, because of the technological advances (in matters of safety and efficiency) above mentioned. Although Europe exports Russian uranium, I think the issue can be addressed by limiting imports of the uranium of that origin.

Conclusion: There are various ways to reduce the dependency on Russian sources of energy

I think the European Union should start to think about those forms to reduce the dependency on Russian oil, gas and uranium, because I feel this problem, which has at least more than a decade — and became worse with the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Russian active measures against the entire West — is not a problem which compromises the energy security of EU, and in some extent of the West, it also worrisomely compromises the overall national security of both EU and of the Western World. That is a risk, which in my opinion EU and the West cannot simply afford.

By either forming a important Energy Union, finding other sources of oil and gas or by investing in renewables or in advanced nuclear energy, I think EU can make enormous progresses in the reducing the dependency on the energy originating from a geopolitical foe like Russia (as the former U.S. Republican candidate Mitt Romney thinks about Russia, which indeed is a right assertion).

That’s what I’ve to say in this article about how the European Union can make a important progress in the increasing its energy and national security by reducing the dependency on the Russian-originated energy sources. Please follow me on Twitter (@O530CarrisPT is my username).

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