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Release peace: the magazine

Release peace: the magazine

Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs

Renewable Energy as a Security Guarantee for Ukraine?

This article is an adaptation of an article by Alyona Vyshnytska as part of a publication collaboration with the Foreign & Security Policy section of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. Alyona contributed her expertise to the Kyiv office of the foundation.

The Impact of War

As their war with Russia continues, energy security is a priority for Ukraine. This is a consequence of large-scale attacks on energy infrastructure and damage to more than half of the country’s energy system. There are over 2,300 cases of environmental damage caused by the war, including unexploded shells, fuel leaks into the soil and groundwater, land mines, forest burning, and more. At the December 2023 UN International Conference on Climate Change, a study by the Initiative on GHG Accounting of War was presented showing that Russia’s military actions during the first seven months of the full-scale invasion have already resulted in the emission of 49 million tons of CO2. Now, according to a sociological survey conducted by EcoAction on Ukrainians’ attitudes toward renewable energy sources, the majority (78%) have a positive attitude toward renewable energy sources. Among the 9 regions where the survey was conducted, Dnipropetrovsk region, which suffers from regular Russian shelling of energy infrastructure, demonstrates the greatest approval for such sources. Moreover, the vast majority of Ukrainians (88%) agree that the country has sufficient natural resources to develop clean energy sources. At the same time, the majority supports the idea of reducing the use of fossil fuels and gradually closing nuclear power plants. Thus, the majority of the population is convinced that clean energy sources are a key source of the future development of Ukraine’s energy system and a key to improving energy security.

Ukraine’s Energy Plans

In July 2022, the International Conference on Ukraine’s Recovery was conducted in Lugano, Switzerland, where a 10-year post-war reconstruction plan was presented, estimated at $750 billion. The recovery plan is a mixture of different projects: “There is a focus on gas, oil, nuclear, hydrogen, and renewable energy production. However, there is no overall strategic vision of what our energy system will look like in the coming decades,” Kostiantyn Krynytskyi, head of the energy department at EcoAction explains. “It is essential that the draft recovery plan is based on modernization and is aimed at European integration,” he adds. “It is important that the reconstruction is not about returning to the state we had before the war, particularly in the energy sector. We should continue to focus on integration into the European Community and consider the European Green Deal. This is necessary so that we can fulfill the requirements and criteria of the European Union necessary for the integration,” Nataliia Lytvyn, coordinator of the Energy Transition Coalition said.

Decentralisation of Renewable Energy

Due to Russia’s missile attacks on Ukraine, thousands of consumers in all parts of the country are left without electricity every day. In order to stabilize the power system and guarantee a balance between energy generation and consumption, local authorities are introducing scheduled and emergency outages. Ukraine’s energy system is largely centralized, concentrated in specific locations that Russia targets with missiles. Therefore, the more decentralized the energy system in Ukraine becomes, the safer it will be. Kostiantyn Krynytskyi says: “We should develop renewable energy sources at the local level and create a more decentralized model. Such a system is more difficult to destroy and damage than to disable a single thermal power plant or nuclear power plant. The communities we work with are now looking for various sustainable solutions. Among the main ones they are considering renewable energy sources, solar and wind generation to meet at least the needs of municipal buildings.” Regular attacks on energy infrastructure confirm that a decentralized system could potentially mar Russian efforts to attack their energy sector.

Helping Ukraine switch to renewable energy sources?

First and foremost, solidarity and support from partners in the European Union is crucial. The first year of Russia’s war against Ukraine has highlighted Ukraine’s dependence on Russian oil, gas, and coal, and has shown the benefits of energy efficiency and decentralization. It also showed the threat to the whole of Europe posed by dependence on Russian resources and the number of victims caused by the inability to immediately abandon them. In addition, it is important to properly allocate the funds that we will receive for reconstruction: “Ukraine has to show by its decisions at the governmental level, in legislative processes, that it is interested in the energy transition, i.e. to ensure a good investment climate for investors in the reconstruction process. Unfortunately, we understand that it is almost impossible to attract investors’ funds during the war.”

Looking for Green Energy

“It is also important to go green with the emergency energy assistance provided by other countries,” adds Krynytskyi: “We need to diversify the list of equipment: not only generators, but also heat pumps and solar power plants.” This is the specific equipment that will remain after the war, and people will perceive renewables and the idea of energy transition differently, remembering how solar power plants helped them survive during the war. The Government of Ukraine and international partners are already developing a common vision of Ukraine’s post-war recovery, which includes not only overcoming the direct consequences of the war, but also building a strategy for the country’s development in the medium term. A number of civil society organizations have already published a vision of Ukraine’s postwar green recovery and its principles. Their vision encourages decentralization of the energy system, increasing the share of renewable energy sources, rebuilding infrastructure with energy efficiency in mind. A cross-cutting element of green recovery is a zero-pollution strategy, including zero waste, for cities after the war.

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