On the evening of 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Energy Monitor’s team met soon after and pivoted to understand and cover the energy implications of the Ukraine War, which would turn out to be enormous.
A war that some thought would last for days continues a year later, causing devastation to lives in Ukraine and beyond. With President Vladimir Putin weaponising Russia’s abundant oil and gas supplies, and nations who once depended on those supplies scrambling to diversify, a global energy crisis has sent the cost of living soaring and impacted energy transition plans across the planet.
Even before the invasion, it was clear that Russia’s move would be tremendously consequential for Europe. On 8 February 2022, correspondent Oliver Gordon anticipated future events and wrote that the continent’s already beleaguered energy market could manage short-term gas supply disruptions, but the energy transition would provide a long-term solution.
“The net-zero transition just got harder – and more urgent”, wrote contributing editor Mark Nicholls, on the day of the invasion.
Europe’s reliance on gas had been growing, not slowing, revealed data researcher Mirela Petkova. Facing the prospect of Putin turning off the gas taps, Europe’s immediate focus was on finding gas elsewhere, reported senior writer Dave Keating.
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Amidst the scramble to secure energy supplies, I wrote about reducing energy demand being synonymous with reducing energy dependency and asked whether the Ukraine crisis will finally get energy efficiency the attention it deserves in Europe.
Data journalist Isabeau van Halm analysed different scenarios for the EU to get off Russian gas.
Meanwhile, the US was pushing the EU to impose tougher sanctions on Russia. On March 2, editor-in-chief Sonja van Renssen wrote that Europe’s fossil fuel dependence was fuelling Russia’s war, and called for European leaders to take charge of their energy and, by implication, future. Managing editor Justin Gerdes suggested that over in the US, the Ukraine crisis could reinvigorate Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. (Little did we know then it would come back with a bang in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act!)
History shows us just how fast we can move away from Russian gas, if the right policies are in place, reported data journalist Nick Ferris.
While much of the focus has been on Russia’s oil and gas, Petkova subsequently put the spotlight on nuclear. Cutting nuclear links with Russia may be harder than cutting fossil fuel imports, she wrote in March 2022. At the time, uranium deliveries for nuclear power remained untouched.
By summer, it became clear the EU needed to step up the phase-out of Russian energy imports. While patting itself on the back for its display of solidarity with Ukraine – with embargoes on Russian oil and coal – the EU wrongly assumed it could set the timetable for scaling back reliance on Russian gas, wrote Martin Vladimirov and Kostantsa Rangelova at the Center for the Study of Democracy, a think tank in Sofia, Bulgaria.
By August 2022, gas and electricity costs hit record highs across Europe. The EU was paying the same amount for 75% less Russian gas, reported Ferris. EU gas storage was up on the year before but not on track to ensure security of supply in case of further disruptions to Russian imports, wrote Petkova.
As part of Energy Monitor’s on-the-ground COP27 video series in November, I spoke to Maxim Timchenko, CEO of Ukraine's largest private energy investor, DTEK, about maintaining Ukraine’s climate ambition. Keating spoke to Jakub Chełstowski, the governor of Poland's coal-heavy Silesia region, who said the war in Ukraine should not make the EU backtrack on its climate goals.
By the end of 2022, one-third of EU nations had not yet introduced any measures to reduce energy demand. An EU electricity market design reform is now underway to tackle the high power prices.
Norway has become Germany’s top gas supplier, as Russia has pivoted to selling oil to China and India.
More recently, data journalist Polly Bindman wrote that it is unclear whether the energy transition is reliant on investments from oil and gas companies. As for coal, van Halm reported that the expected rebound didn’t happen in 2022.
Today, former editor-in-chief Phillipa Nuttall writes that the war in Ukraine has boosted renewables and technologies like heat pumps in Europe. However, continued ramping up of clean energy action will require a steady nerve and policy support, she argues.
The global energy transition has been given a shot in the arm, but remains an enormous challenge. Energy Monitor’s team remains committed to providing news, expert analysis, comment and features to help you understand it. We also hope that today’s anniversary will be the only of its kind.