Connect with us

Energy

Natural Gas – A Game Changer for European Geopolitics

Luis Durani

Published

on

In 1945, Europe became bifurcated along two ideological camps; communism and capitalism. As the iron curtain-shrouded Europe, the geopolitical divide was defined. Nowhere was this ideological demarcation more explicit than the Berlin Wall; a city divided by two superpowers.

European politics were defined for almost half a century along this divide. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the state of European geopolitics appeared to be in flux but that trepidation was short-lived. With the premise of a “European Union”, the continent for once appeared to be evolving towards an economic structure similar to the US. As the global economy began to thrive, it needed oil and gas to fuel the prosperity, Europe was no exception. Russia once again found an influential bargaining chip; its energy supplies.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

Natural gas is a hydrocarbon energy source principally comprised of methane. It is a fossil fuel used primarily for heating, cooking, and electricity. To make it economically feasible and readily available for mass transport, the gas is liquefied. By liquefying natural gas, a dramatic reduction in volume is achieved. Thus, LNG becomes cost efficient to traverse over long distances especially in areas where pipelines do not exist.

The Russian LNG Radius

Russia has been a vast country always yearning for access to warm water ports and protection of its vast western frontier from mainland Europe. Russia always feared that its hinterland has been vulnerable to invasion by large armies from Europe. In the 20th century, Russia’s anxieties materialized into two world wars that resulted in large deaths and destruction of its country. West of the Ural Mountains, Russia’s flat plains lay wide open for any to easily enter. Undergoing such death and destruction, Russia (or at the time the Soviet Union) decided to create a buffer zone on its western border by occupying the Eastern Europe nations from Estonia down to Ukraine. But with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia had become exposed on its western border once again.

As the Cold War became a relic of history, the European economic machine began to propel forward. The energy needed to lubricate the titans of European industry was oil and gas. Russia found a new method of defense for its border through the carbon obsession of the European nations. As such, Russia began to flow natural gas into the European economic vein. What began as a symbiotic relationship turned into a European addiction. The European obsession became a nightmare when Russia turned the spigot off resulting into the European gas crisis. This reliance on Russian energy exposed the vulnerabilities of the European economies. Thanks to its natural resources, Russia has been able to create spheres of influence throughout the European continent. The Russian LNG radius reflects the level of dependency. The further away a nation is from Russia, the less they are dependent on its energy sources. Even Great Britain with a sizable gas industry, still relies on gas supplies from Russia. The figure below illustrates this periphery of dependence.

LNG img

Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-centrica-gas-deals-idUKKBN0NY1FH20150513

Gas Politics

As the US becomes the world’s largest producer of hydrocarbon energy, it finds itself less and less reliant on foreign sources. With its new found means, America is able to not only export its LNG but use it to transform European geopolitics. This year, the US began to allow American natural gas producers to export LNG internationally for the first time. This ability granted the US a new stature as a major energy exporter. The ability to export LNG provides Europe with an alternative to Russian LNG, hence breaking the Russian yoke that has chained Europe thus far. This influence was witnessed in the Ukrainian civil conflict. Certain European nations have wavered or been reticent to fully express their opinions due to their reliance on Russian gas. Such dependency creates pseudo-vassal states based on a Russian periphery system. Even though in certain cases it may be cheaper to import Russian LNG over American LNG, Europe still prefers to pay the higher premium to ensure the dependency periphery is broken. Thanks to American innovation in the oil and gas industry, the US is able to free itself from foreign imports and balance Russian influence in Europe. As a result, the US has made LNG exports an imperative aspect of its Russian geopolitical calculus.

Conclusion

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia was able to appease its apprehension about its border insecurities through the creation of a carbon fuel peripheral system. The closer a nation is to Russia, the more reliant the nation is on its natural gas distribution system. However with innovation in fracking and other technological breakthroughs, the US has established itself as an energy powerhouse. Using this resource, the US has decided to break the European continent from its inveterate addiction to Russian LNG. As the first shipment of LNG ships abroad from the US, European geopolitics are in its initial stages of a radical transformation.

Luis Durani is currently employed in the oil and gas industry. He previously worked in the nuclear energy industry. He has a M.A. in international affairs with a focus on Chinese foreign policy and the South China Sea, MBA, M.S. in nuclear engineering, B.S. in mechanical engineering and B.A. in political science. He is also author of "Afghanistan: It’s No Nebraska – How to do Deal with a Tribal State" and "China and the South China Sea: The Emergence of the Huaqing Doctrine." Follow him for other articles on Instagram: @Luis_Durani

Continue Reading
Comments

Energy

Higher Shares of Renewable Energy Central to Sustainable Development Across Southeast Asia

MD Staff

Published

on

Southeast Asian countries are on course to meet their aspirational renewable energy target of a 23 per cent share of total primary energy supply by 2025, according to new analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Achieving this target would also significantly improve the access to affordable clean energy in the region in line with its pursuit of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7.

In the report, Renewable Energy Market Analysis: Southeast Asia – launched during the United Nations Global SDG7 Conference in Bangkok, IRENA highlights that renewable energy is proving key to expanding energy access in a region where 65 million people lack it. With Southeast Asia’s vast, untapped renewables potential, considerable opportunities exist to accelerate renewables deployment in the power sector but also in heating, cooling and transport. Strong enabling and investment frameworks however need to be put in place to overcome barriers facing renewables uptake.

“Southeast Asia is making important progress towards the diversification of its energy supply, and is recognising that renewables are a cost-competitive solution to power economic growth and meet rising energy demand ” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at the launch event during the Conference.

“The accelerated adoption of renewable energy offers broad environmental, economic and social benefits, including creating jobs, reducing air pollution and tackling climate change,” continued Mr. Amin. “Policy makers and other development actors should prioritise investment in clean, reliable and affordable energy as a pillar of development across the region.”

Renewable Energy Market Analysis: Southeast Asia covers the critical considerations for effective policy-making to accelerate the energy transformation, and analyses trends in energy supply and consumption at the regional and national level. It also examines the investment trends and policy instruments supporting the current deployment of renewable energy in a region where economic growth exceeds 4 per cent. Southeast Asia’s renewable energy potential is also explored, both in terms of resource potential, and the spectrum of benefits the transition to a sustainable energy future brings.

The report notes that in 2016, 611,000 people were employed in Southeast Asia’s renewables sector, primarily in liquid biofuels, however up to 2.2 million people could be employed in the sector by 2030 should renewables scale-up in line with the region’s potential.

Synergies between decentralised renewable energy and livelihood development, whether in rural, urban or island settings are also highlighted. Drawing on a number of projects that demonstrate how decentralised renewable energy solutions — such as micro-hydro and biogas solutions based on local entrepreneurship and strong community participation  — the analysis draws parallels between modern energy services and socio-economic development.

The report forms part of IRENA’s wider body of work in the region, including country-level engagement and regional initiatives, advancing joint efforts of IRENA and the governments of the ASEAN to accelerate the region’s transition to low-carbon, sustainable energy.

It is also part of IRENA’s Renewable Energy Market Analysis series capturing knowledge and experience from different regions to identify emerging public policy and market development trends. The first two editions covered the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) region (2015) and Latin America (2016).

The full report can be downloaded, here.

Continue Reading

Energy

Concentrating Solar: Delivering Renewable Electricity When It’s Needed

MD Staff

Published

on

Last year, right after graduating from college, Hajar Abjeg left her vibrant hometown of Agadir on the west coast of Morocco to live in the middle of the desert in Ouarzazate. A newly minted engineer, her goal was to work at the sprawling solar complex on the outskirts of the city because, she said, it was the future.

“What’s exciting for me about this plant (is) that we use a resource that’s taken for granted… to produce something that is essential for us,” Abjeg said. “The more we study this kind of plant, the more we operate it, the more we find ways to make it as efficient as possible, and the less reliant (we are) on traditional energy-producing methods such as fossil fuels. And in the long term, that’s fantastic.”

Abjeg is not alone in her optimism.

Concentrating solar power (CSP) is moving ahead in many countries, especially in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America, where exceptional year-round solar resources and vast swathes of available land make it an attractive option, often over traditional sources of power such as coal and oil.

With thermal storage that is superior to batteries for bulk energy storage, CSP provides power that is dispatchable any time there is demand for electricity. The plants store heat from the sun in large tanks of molten salt – where it can be stored for hours, days or as long as needed — and turn it into electricity on cloudy days or during peak usage, which occurs at night for many countries in the Middle East and North Africa. This allows electric utilities to regulate electricity production and integrate other variable renewable sources of electricity – solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind – into their energy mix more easily.

In 2017, CSP had a global installed capacity of 5.1 GW. That number is expected to reach 10 GW by 2022, with almost all new capacity incorporating storage, according to the International Energy Agency. Worldwide, 23 countries have CSP projects. While the largest installed capacities are in the United States and Spain, there are CSP plants in operation or under development in numerous other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel, India, China, South Africa, Chile, Mexico, Australia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

In Morocco, the Noor Ouarzazate CSP project is the country’s first utility-scale solar energy complex, and expects to reach over 500 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, ultimately supplying power to more than 1 million Moroccans and contributing to Morocco’s goal of producing 42 percent of its electricity through renewable sources by 2020.

But while CSP will undoubtedly play a role in the energy mix for some countries, significant hurdles remain.

The high cost of setting up a CSP plant is one such challenge. CSP technology is expensive and more time-consuming to build than wind or solar PV. Developing countries already face difficulties in financing capital-intensive infrastructure, so for a relatively new technology like CSP, investment can be much harder to attract. In many cases, the World Bank and other international financial institutions have stepped in and provided concessional financing to help attract private investors and make the market for CSP competitive and drive down prices even further.

Concern around costs, especially when compared to solar PV, is also a hurdle. But prices are dropping – in 2017 the cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) fell to 6 US cents in Australia and 7.3 US cents in Dubai.  Also, as CSP has a built-in storage solution, the true comparison is against solar PV plus batteries – the price of which are also falling, but remain expensive. Without costly battery storage, PV often cannot deliver power when its value is highest—which is where CSP shines. It offers the guarantee of continuous electricity production – especially at night – something solar PV cannot do.

Ultimately, solar PV plus some form of storage will likely be CSP’s biggest competitor.  But for the moment, CSP has a potentially important role in the energy mix for many countries – particularly those with abundant sunshine and available land – helping improve energy security and In Morocco, CSP is expected to decrease dependence on oil by about 2.5 million tons and reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year, CSP is expected to decrease dependence on oil by about 2.5 million tons and reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year. The Noor Ouarzazate project has also encouraged several start-ups in the country and youth, and women in particular, to pursue education and jobs in the renewable energy sector.

“The future of CSP is very bright,” said Abjeg. “When I first walked in here, (I saw) the sheer size of the plant and how much energy they produce. To produce that just from collecting sun rays – it’s amazing.”

World Bank

Continue Reading

Energy

EU Doubling Renewables by 2030 Positive for Economy, Key to Emission Reductions

MD Staff

Published

on

The European Union (EU) can increase the share of renewable energy in its energy mix to 34 per cent by 2030 – double the share in 2016 – with a net positive economic impact, finds a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), launched in Brussels.

Presenting the findings during a launch event, ‘Renewable Energy Prospects for the European Union’ – developed at the request of the European Commission – IRENA’s Director-General Mr. Adnan Z. Amin highlighted that achieving higher shares of renewable energy is possible with today’s technology, and would trigger additional investments of around EUR 368 billion until 2030 – equal to an average annual contribution of 0.3 per cent of the GDP of the EU. The number of people employed in the sector across the EU – currently 1.2 million – would grow significantly under a revised strategy.

Raising the share of renewable energy would help reduce emissions by a further 15 per cent by 2030 – an amount equivalent to Italy’s total emissions. These reductions would bring the EU in line with its goal to reduce emissions by 40 per cent compared to 1990 levels, and set it on a positive pathway towards longer-term decarbonisation. The increase would result in savings of between EUR 44 billion and EUR 113 billion per year by 2030, when accounting for savings related to the cost of energy, and avoided environmental and health costs.

“For decades now, through ambitious long-term targets and strong policy measures, Europe has been at the forefront of global renewable energy deployment,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “With an ambitious and achievable new renewable energy strategy, the EU can deliver market certainty to investors and developers, strengthen economic activity, grow jobs, improve health and put the EU on a stronger decarbonisation pathway in line with its climate objectives.”

Welcoming the timeliness of the report, Mr. Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action said: “The report confirms our own assessments that the costs of renewables have come down significantly in the last couple of years, and that we need to consider these new realities in our ambition levels for the upcoming negotiations to finalise Europe’s renewable energy policies.”

The report highlights that all EU Member States have additional cost-effective renewable energy potential, noting that renewable heating and cooling options account for more than one-third of the EU’s additional renewables potential. Furthermore, all renewable transport options will be needed to realise EU’s long-term decarbonisation objectives.

Additional key findings from the report, include:

  • Reaching a 34% renewable share by 2030 would require an estimated average investment in renewable energy of around EUR 62 billion per year.
  • The renewable energy potential identified would result in 327 GW of installed wind capacity an additional 97 GW compared to business as usual, and 270 GW of solar, an 86 GW increase on business as usual.
  • Accelerated adoption of heat pumps and electric vehicles would increase electricity to 27 per cent of total final energy consumption, up from 24 per cent in a business as usual scenario.
  • The share of renewable energy in the power sector would rise to 50 per cent by 2030, compared to 29 per cent in 2015.
  • In end-use sectors, renewable energy would account for 42 per cent of energy in buildings, 36 per cent in industry and 17 per cent in transport.
  • All renewable transport options are needed, including electric vehicles and – both advanced and conventional – biofuels to realise long-term EU decarbonisation objectives.

The report is a contribution to the ongoing discussions on the European Commission’s ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package, tabled in November 2016, which proposed a framework to support renewable energy deployment.

Renewable Energy Prospects for the European Union is part of IRENA’s renewable energy roadmap, REmap, which determines the potential for countries, regions and the world to scale up renewables to ensure an affordable and sustainable energy future. The roadmap focuses on renewable technology options in power, as well as heating, cooling and transport. The REmap study for the EU is based on deep analysis of existing REmap studies for 10 EU Member States (accounting for 73 per cent of EU energy use), complemented and aggregated with high-level analyses for the other 18 EU Member States.

Continue Reading

Latest

Cities16 hours ago

Shumbrat, Mordovia! The Land of Finno-Ugric nation and the host city of the World Cup 2018

What is common between Finland, Estonia, Hungary, and the Republic of Mordovia? In 2007, Saransk, Mordovia, the 1st Festival of...

Newsdesk20 hours ago

World Bank Supports Young Digital Entrepreneurs in Botswana

Digital ecosystems and entrepreneurs are essential to innovation and development in Africa. With support from the World Bank, the Botswana...

Newsdesk21 hours ago

Job creation around agriculture can spur youth employment in Africa

Agriculture will continue to generate employment in Africa over the coming decades, but businesses around farming, including processing, packaging, transportation,...

Terrorism22 hours ago

Katibat Imam al Bukhari Renewed its Ideological Doctrine of the Jihad

On February 15, 2017 the Uzbek jihadist group of Katibat Imamal Bukhari from Central Asia, also known as the Imam...

Southeast Asia22 hours ago

Thai universities must look beyond ranking

Bangkok – The recent 2018 Asia University Rankings published by the Times Higher Education (THE) magazine is calling attention for...

Economy23 hours ago

Promoting a More Inclusive and Sustainable Development for China

China can achieve more inclusive and sustainable development with coordinated reforms across a broad range of areas that maximize development...

Middle East23 hours ago

Looking for options: The Israeli Establishment and the Syrian Conflict

Israel’s National Security: What’s an issue? Since its foundation, Israel has based its defense calculations on two concepts: existential security...

Newsletter

Trending

Copyright © 2018 Modern Diplomacy