Non-Military Security

Ukraine’s growing role in Europe’s energy security

Alžbeta Gavalcová

So far, Kyiv’s significance to Europe has been primarily to transit oil and gas supplies from Russia, which Moscow is now using to wage an “economic gas war” against the West. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine thus represents a new impetus for the EU in shaping a new European energy strategy and policy. Will Ukraine remain mainly a transit hub for Brussels, or will its role change fundamentally as a result of the ongoing conflict? 

Kyiv has the second largest gas reserves in Europe (after Norway), but the volume of gas and oil produced in Ukraine is falling every year. Moreover, approximately 80% of gas reserves are located in the east of the country and the occupied territories. The country is, therefore, still dependent on imports of gas and oil from abroad, especially Russia. In 2010, Ukraine decided to join the Energy Community in an attempt to strengthen its energy security by reducing its dependence on Russian gas and increasing gas imports from the EU via the neighbouring V4 countries. 

Apart from the military defeat of the occupiers, Kyiv would have to invest massively in exploration and extraction to fully exploit the potential of domestic gas deposits, which is highly unlikely in the current situation. Therefore, it is unrealistic that the country will turn from a transit hub into a significant gas producer, at least in the near term. However, the vast gas storage capacity (around 30bcm) in Ukraine, which is also the third largest in the world and strategically located in the west of the country, has potential for Europe. In the coming winter, it can significantly help preserve European strategic gas supplies. However, the problem is that tapping the potential from these gas storage capacities requires investment in technology, especially in interconnectors. Support for infrastructure building in Ukraine must therefore be one of the European Union’s priorities in order to increase energy security, as gas will remain a part of the energy mix, at least in the short term. The interconnector between Poland and Ukraine, which is being completed, and another between Ukraine and Slovakia, will be particularly important in this context. 

However, even a climate-neutral EU will be energy dependent on other countries. In the long run, we need to talk in particular about non-fossil energy sources in the context of the European Green Deal. New opportunities present themselves in the form of electricity supplies from nuclear power plants and renewable energy sources from Ukraine, which is also in line with the green objectives of both parties. A frequent problem in the EU Member States is low social acceptance of the implications of using renewable energy sources, e.g. the construction of wind farms close to households, which can be solved by importing clean energy from Ukraine. Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe, has a massive territory that can be used to tap solar and wind energy and transmit it to the European Union. There is also potential for biomass energy. The production of biomethane could reach up to 1 billion cubic metres in Ukraine by 2030, replacing gas to a large extent.

Kyiv has immense potential to play a crucial role in Europe’s energy security in the future. It is, therefore, essential that the European Union continues to support Ukraine and invests in its reconstruction after the war. This applies, in particular, to investment in the aforementioned renewable energy sources, as Ukraine was also facing problems before the war due to an underfunded energy sector. Kyiv has already started the first steps towards integration into the joint system by joining ENTSO-E (European Association for the Cooperation of Transmission System Operators), with the total energy export potential from Ukraine set at 100 megawatts each month. The EU  should thus also include projects in Ukraine in projects of common interest, even though Kyiv is not (yet) a full member.

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