Ensuring a green economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis has become a priority in many countries. In the energy sector, we are seeing an accelerated transition to clean, low-carbon solutions. What will be the choice of the Russian fuel and energy sector? Will the priorities of our energy policy change? Liliana Proskuryakova, deputy head of the Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, writes about this.
The pandemic presents not only a challenge for the economy and society, but also an opportunity to reset, implement or accelerate structural changes.
In the energy sector, qualitative changes were noticeable even before the pandemic. The industry is becoming greener despite opposition from companies and hydrocarbon exporting countries. Many oil and gas majors and national companies have moved beyond their core businesses and are actively investing in renewable energies and other clean technologies. For example, the business diversification of the Norwegian company Statoil led to a radical change of priorities and even a name change (to Equinor) in 2018. A year earlier, DONG Energy in Denmark switched from oil and gas production to the development of offshore wind farms. In 2020, the first delivery of carbon-free hydrogen was supplied by Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia) to Japan. The British company BP has adopted a new strategy to move from oil production to supplying low-carbon solutions to consumers.
Not only are companies changing, the energy policies of the largest, most technologically developed countries are changing. South Korea followed Japan's goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, and China declared that it would do so by 2060. Despite the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the Federal Energy Commission is considering the possibility of introducing a carbon tax in the country. The European Union has long taken a "green course" and intends not only to increase the capacity of renewable energy generation at a record pace (including the production of "green" hydrogen), but also to strictly control emissions of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, etc.). More than a third of the investments allocated for the post-crisis recovery of the EU economy are aimed at pursuing the green initiative and achieving climate neutrality goals by 2050.
Natural gas is considered an acceptable addition to “clean” energy sources. That is why demand for it is growing in many regions of the world, and new technologies (liquefaction) and routes for its delivery are being developed. Fossil fuel certainly remains in the energy balance, but it is also becoming cleaner along the entire production and processing chain.
Many countries, including Russia, are actively analysing technologies for inexpensive hydrogen production, its safe transportation and storage, as well as its use (for example, a mixture of hydrogen and gas in hybrid turbines). An accelerated growth in demand and a fall in the cost of electric and fuel cell vehicles are predicted, and the infrastructure of new filling and charging stations is actively being developed.