18 Сентября 2021
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"Ugly" Europe will not "turn green"

Ignoring Russia in environmental matters, the European Union risks gaining "problems."

About seven weeks remain before the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. At the previous meeting in Madrid, the participants could not adopt the final communiqué. It was not possible to interact on the "agreed rules" (article 6 of the Paris Climate Agreement). These were the so-called "national commitments" to reduce SO2 emissions taken voluntarily.

This can be repeated at a conference in Glasgow. Such concerns were expressed by Ruslan Edelgeriev, adviser and special representative of the President of the Russian Federation on climate issues, the correspondent of The Moscow Post reports.

Who's greener in the world?

Russia is ahead of its emission reduction commitments. The challenge is not to exceed the current level. The Ministry of Economic Development of Russia has developed four scenarios for a development strategy with low greenhouse gas emissions. It is necessary to choose the most suitable of them, which meets domestic needs, taking into account the current needs of energy importers, the expected structure of the global market for hydrocarbons and electricity.

These very "needs of importers" are difficult to determine. It is known that the European Union, the main importer of Russian energy carriers, claims leadership in the "green transition" and is aimed at becoming climate-neutral. In energy plans and forecasts, Brussels did not consult with Moscow, despite the high degree of dependence on the Russian Federation in this area.

As of 2021, Russia looks as green in terms of commitments to reduce SO2 emissions as Europe, even better. Under the Paris Agreement, the Russian Federation should achieve by 2030 greenhouse gas emissions of no more than 70% of the 1990 level. But in 2018 this figure was 52%.

The share of green generation in Russia in 2020 was 33.6% of all electricity generation. Hydroelectric power plants give 20.8%, nuclear power plants - 11.7%, windmills and solar panels - 1.1%. In the European Union, hydrocarbon energy produces 62% of electricity, Europeans receive 38% from renewable energy. For comparison, about 22% of rated capacity are the share of a share of the renewables (R) in a global energy balance, including hydroelectric power station and the NPP.

Russia can even get ahead of Europe in terms of greens by building new nuclear power plants, classic, floating and tidal hydroelectric power plants, and other energy projects that do not produce SO2 emissions. In the future, the Russian Federation may become a leader in the production of hydrogen and its application technologies in industry and transport.

But, as in the case of the protracted European Union certification of Russian vaccines, Brussels's policy to protect the atmosphere received a roll towards geopolitics. The meaning of the green transition in European terms is also to reduce the cost of importing hydrocarbons ($255 billion in 2020) and dependence on Russia in this area. And this is in vain, somehow not in a housekeeping way. It is too early to wonder how everything will turn out.

EU steps ahead

Non-EU countries provide more than 60% of energy consumption by EU countries. This addiction is growing. Russia's share in the volumes of oil and petroleum products consumed by Europe reaches 30%, in the consumption of natural gas about 33-34%. Dependence on Russia for energy coal has increased in ten years from 22.9% to 43.5%. All Russian exports to the EU amounted to $ 100 billion in 2020.

In the first half of this year, Russia's trade with Germany exceeded $25.6 billion, an increase of 34% compared to the same period in 2020.

Exports for six months amounted to $12.7 billion and grew by 46.5%. The share of hydrocarbons in exports was 75.6%, reaching $9.6 billion in value (an increase of 45%).

European consumers are energetically and through subsidies transferred to new, environmentally friendly sources of electricity. In electro-generation, these are, first of all, the sun and wind, hydroelectric power stations, as well as nuclear power plants, which do not fall into the category of completely "clean" according to the criteria of Brussels. Promising plans take into account twists in the mood of German residents and politicians. Since the accidents at nuclear power plants in Japan in 2011, this significant part of the European Union has opposed nuclear power plants on its territory!

The EU's priority in the future is hydrogen, with green produced using green electricity. But this is only in the future. There are few hydroelectric energy resources in Europe for the production of green hydrogen, they are used by 80%. Windmills and solar panels are not enough for this. The energy of the atom is somehow not counting, and the import of electricity from the Russian Federation or Belarus is not suitable for political reasons. Thus, already at the initial stage, the "green transition" was politicized, deprived of universality, and became selective. And the problem is that the realism of the green transition suffers.

Gazprom and Rosatom offer

The irony is that without the capabilities of nuclear power plants, the energy and environmental maneuver of the European Union is unlikely to be feasible. It is known, for example, that natural gas in the field of generation is considered a "transition" stage to the "era of hydrogen." In fact, there is every reason to believe that hydrogen energy will initially depend on natural gas as a raw material for the production of hydrogen fuel. And the conversion of methane to hydrogen will require cheap and clean electricity generated by nuclear power plants or powerful hydroelectric power plants, as, for example, in the production of aluminum.

According to Gazprom advisers, the decarbonization of the economy, declared by the EU, "creates opportunities for interaction with Russia at a new technological level." Such interaction can go beyond gas supplies, it can include the production of hydrogen from methane without CO2 emissions. But EU experts do not notice this yet.

Rosatom, for its part, proposes the concept of a "green square," in which hydroelectric power stations, wind parks and solar farms will be supplemented by NPP projects. In their construction, Rosatom succeeded and entered the position of world leader.

And the "green square," becoming the basis of a carbon-free future, can also serve the interests of Russia's partners - said Alexei Likhachev, general director of Rosatom. In particular, he revealed the details of the Breakthrough project, which has a closed nuclear fuel cycle. The closed cycle allows to repeatedly increase the raw material base of nuclear energy, to reuse spent nuclear fuel. This can work the most modern fast neutron reactors. The first of them is already under construction, the foundation is poured under the building of the Brest-300 reactor plant.

Rosatom also creates new types of fuel, which uses plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel. In plans of the company for 2021 transfer of block No. 4 of the Beloyarsk NPP on MOHtoplivo. Rosatom also continues to work on low-capacity NPP projects, including mobile ones. The latter will provide electricity to remote and inaccessible territories, projects in developing countries.

Green fog and Russia

There is nothing particularly impressive about EU commitments to decarbonize the economy. In December 2019, the European Commission proposed the so-called Green Deal. In July 2021, its president, Ms. von der Leyen, announced that the EU would reduce SO2 emissions by 55% of 1990 levels by 2030. Today, this figure is 76%. It is proposed that by 2030 Europe will produce 40% of all necessary energy through renewable energy). So far, the figure is about 10%.

The Fit for 55 plan is presented as an application for Europe to become the first environmentally neutral continent by 2050. The EU also plans to introduce duties on SO2 emissions for foreign products with a long "carbon footprint" (steel rolled, cement, fertilizers, glass, etc.).

This protective measure will "help" European companies remain within the borders of the EU, should make it unprofitable to transfer energy-intensive industries to countries with a liberal hydrocarbon regime. Exporting countries will find it harder to compete with "protected" local producers. In fact, the European Commission proposes a cross-border adjustment mechanism to ensure that the prices of EU-traded "emission quotas" are comparable for domestic producers and importers of the same products.

These are only plans, there is no law yet. But it was this part of the Ready for 55 plan that caused concern among Russian politicians, the business community, and state institutions. Losses and losses began to be estimated by German Gref, Anatoly Chubais, Alexey Kudrin. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says that Russia "has ten years to restructure the economy." Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov tends to consider the "energy transition" a theory without numbers. It is not clear to the minister how much it will cost, and who will pay whom. It is good that, at least in Oreshkin's office, they monitor the EU's plans for primary sources.

Select Script

The picture of relations between the Russian Federation and the EU, in the case of the introduction of a cross-border tax, remains vague. The Russian president confirmed his interest in working with Brussels on climate change, but noted that Russia cannot accept rules that conflict with WTO rules. After this statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry invited Brussels to clarify the details of the plan.

The basic option of Russia's actions is aimed at reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to lower rates than the European Union. An intensive scenario (the most capital-intensive) involves a significant change in the structure of electricity generation. Its share, produced at nuclear and hydroelectric power plants, as well as renewable energy facilities, can grow to 73% by 2050.

To cover domestic market demand, 280 GW of capacity will need to be introduced. Russia may also be one of the leading exporters of electricity and hydrogen. Nevertheless, Russian negotiators expect problems in the process of agreeing with UN experts on the absorbing potential of forests, swamps, etc.

The Paris Agreement does not use the term "fossil fuels," nor does it provide for coercive mechanisms to reduce emissions. But numerous groups of environmental activists and foundations supporting them consider this agreement to be the basis for high-profile demands to reduce SO2 emissions at the expense of the fuel and energy complex and, by definition, at the expense of Russia, Europe's energy donor.

This activity has acquired the nature of a propaganda campaign that has to be resisted, perhaps also using the media and extraordinary approaches. Ultimately, the only clean energy is the energy saved. There are many ways to save resources, both energy and financial. The challenge is to limit wasteful consumption of all resources, not just hydrocarbons.

In this regard, Ms. von der Leyen's EU strategy and plan "Ready for 55" are neither optimal nor economical. It is unreasonable to rely on technologies that have not yet been tested, which will only presumably ensure the success of the green transition strategy, while ignoring one of the corners of the green square - the Russian one.

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