It appears that the European Union, especially German Chancellor Angel Merkel, are convinced that they will no longer need Russian gas by 2046 as the bloc will mostly rely on renewable resources.
However, it does raise questions on whether the EU can achieve this in only a quarter of a century and why Germany went through the long process, including sanction threats, to build the Nord-Stream 2 pipeline so Russian gas can reach the energy hungry industrial powerhouse and other European markets.
During Merkel’s meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev at the end of August, she stressed the importance of Ukraine remaining a transit country of Russian gas to European markets and that “it's very important” for Russia and Ukraine to “develop in the direction of climate neutrality.”
“Germany should achieve that by 2046. That is why gas consumption will decrease, and then gas will not go on Nord Stream or via Ukraine's gas transport system. In 25 years at the latest, we will stop exporting Russian gas. Ukraine should prepare for this,” she added.
Merkel effectively believes that the Nord-Stream 2 pipeline will be redundant within only a generation, questioning why the project was ever built to begin with, especially when pipelines can have a longevity of hundreds of years.
A year ago, the EU proposed a strategy for the large-scale use of green hydrogen from renewable energy sources. Investments of up to €470 billion are planned by 2025. According to Brussels, Kiev may become one of their main renewable energy partners.
Undoubtedly, renewables have taken a significant place in EU energy planning, especially since most of Europe lacks its own hydrocarbons despite its industries being energy hungry.
- In Germany, famed for its railway network, trains already run-on ecological fuel and a large company is being constructed to produce hydrogen by electrolysis.
- In Belgium and the Netherlands, a river boat is being tested for green fuel.
- In Austria, three large corporations have launched several joint projects using hydrogen in the steel sector.
- In Greece, Volkswagen and Citroën are turning entire islands “green”, specifically Astypalea and Halki respectively.
In the world of renewable energy, rare earths, lithium and cobalt are highly valued. This is why Brussels is actively establishing relations with African countries where these minerals are mined, but potential suppliers also include Ukraine.
Local deposits in Ukraine have been extracted since Soviet times.
Negotiations have been ongoing since last year, and included the issue of supplies of critical raw materials in Kiev's technical assistance program. But in February, the EU decided to allocate an additional €800,000 to Kiev.
The West claims that its ambitious drive towards green energy is to fight against climate change. From 2030, Brussels intends to introduce a carbon footprint tax, which will apply to all production that involves carbon dioxide emissions.
It is intended to defend European producers in the transition period from carbohydrates to renewables and forces foreign companies to switch to green energy sources.
It has been calculated that Russia will lose about €34 billion in ten years if things remain the same. In response, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development announced a new low-carbon strategy project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2050.
Initially, green energy could not compete with gas and coal combustion. New technologies have emerged though and solar panels and other energy generators have become cheaper than traditional energy sources.
Despite this, Moscow has remained mostly on the sidelines of the “green revolution.” However, Moscow is trying to respond to European initiatives, especially since the EU sees Russia as a potential market for European renewable energy installations.
The transition to renewable sources will take at least a generation, and during this time the EU will still need Russian gas.
For this reason, major EU states are trying not to worsen their relations with Moscow, but are instead emphasizing that the future belongs to renewable energy.
This all remains conjecture though, and it also brings to question why Merkel was desperate for the Nord-Stream 2 pipeline, even to the point of defying U.S. threats of sanctions, if Merkel believes the pipeline will be redundant within a generation.
It can be speculated that Nord-Stream 2 is going to become the mainstay of Russian gas reaching European markets for several decades, well beyond Merkel’s estimates of it ending by 2046.
By saying that the Nord-Stream 2 pipeline will be less used by 2046, Merkel is effectively relieving the immediate pressure she is facing today from European critics, the U.S. and Ukraine for allowing the construction of the pipeline.
The truth is, no one, including Merkel, knows how used Nord-Stream 2 will be in 2046.
However, it is certain that Merkel will be out of the picture and will escape criticism if her Nord-Stream 2 prediction is incorrect and expose it for being a political statement to downplay the significance of the pipeline because of the criticisms she is receiving.