How the Baltic Sea countries can protect Europe from Russia’s energy weapon

By Robert Habeck, Kadri Simson and Dan Jørgensen

The European Union has a unique opportunity to gradually emerge from its historic dependence on Russian energy and to take ownership of its energy future; Robert Habeck, Kadri Simson and Dan Jørgensen – energy officials in Germany, Estonia and Denmark respectively – highlight four issues the EU needs to address to get there.

Russia’s use of energy as a political and economic weapon has placed the countries bordering the Baltic Sea at the forefront of the international energy crisis. But by strengthening energy security, phasing out Russian fossil fuels and sevenfolding our offshore wind power capacity in just eight years, countries in the region will play a key role in protecting Europe from the energy weapon. of Russia.

To this end, the Baltic Sea Energy Security Summit, held in Denmark on 30 August, brought together the President of the European Commission, the European Commissioner for Energy, Prime Ministers, Presidents and energy ministers from Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

For centuries, the Baltic Sea has been the scene of international conflicts and rivalries. Today, however, our eight countries are members of the European Union, and now we are significantly strengthening energy cooperation.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was as shocking as it was unwarranted, and Russia’s subsequent use of gas as a political and economic weapon highlighted the need for Europe to become independent of Russian energy imports. By withholding its natural gas exports in blatant violation of existing agreements, Russia is trying to push the EU to the brink of an energy crisis and pressure us to refrain from helping Ukraine.

The Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline connects Russia to Germany. Image by Samuel Bailey, shared under the Creative Commons 3.0 license.

The output of Russian energy

We have significantly strengthened collaboration on energy issues over the past decade. The Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan has been an important part of this architecture since 2008. But last week marked the start of a new era for our energy systems, as our eight countries and the European Union met and signed the “Marienborg Declaration”. “It aims to do four things.

First, we will accelerate the gradual exit of Russian energy. To wean ourselves off their fossil fuels, we will for example accelerate the electrification of our energy systems, diversify our energy supply and gradually decarbonize our gas networks.

Second, we have set out a vision to increase our offshore wind power capacity by almost seven times over the next eight years. By increasing the current capacity of 2.8 GW to at least 19.6 GW, we could power up to 28.5 million homes. To put this figure into perspective, it is roughly equal to the total number of households in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

Third, in the short term, Russian energy will have to be replaced by increasing imports of liquefied natural gas in some of our countries. Since LNG is transported by sea, we need to improve coordination to manage the growing maritime trade around the Baltic Sea. This includes cooperation on building infrastructure, such as ports and LNG terminals.

Finally, we will explore joint cross-border renewable energy projects and identify infrastructure needs to enable the integration of renewable energy necessary to ensure security of supply and affordable energy in our homes and businesses, while respecting the priorities national energy policy and energy choices. to mix together.

Globally, the energy sector has undergone a dramatic but often overlooked transition over the past decade. For example, the global average price of offshore wind energy has fallen by 60% since 2010, and today it can provide energy cheaper than most fossil fuel sources. In addition, an increase in domestic energy production capacity will make it possible to produce green hydrogen which can gradually be used as an alternative to Russian gas.

The geopolitics of energy is changing before our eyes. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent geopolitical shockwaves through Brussels, all other European capitals and Washington, DC. And while energy has been used as a weapon against Europe many times before, the falling costs of renewables and LNG, as well as the advent of the hydrogen economy, can be used as a shield to protect us. At this crucial moment, we have a unique opportunity to gradually reduce our historic dependence on Russian energy and take ownership of our energy future. By doing so, we can show the world that energy should never be used as a tool of oppression, but as a source of cooperation and prosperity.

This commentary is signed by: Khashayar Farmanbar, Swedish Minister for Energy and Digital Development; Riina Sikkut, Estonian Minister for Economic Affairs and Infrastructure; Anna Moskwa, Polish Minister for Climate and Environment; Ilze Indriksone, Latvian Minister of Economy; Mika Lintilä, Finnish Minister for Economic Affairs; and Dainius Kreivys, Lithuanian Minister of Energy.

Robert Habeck is the German Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection; Kadri Simson is European Commissioner for Energy; Dan Jørgensen is the Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities.

Copyright: Project union2022. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.