(In)dependence and its contrasting aspects

Around a decade ago voices could be heard in the EU, that it was not desirable to become more dependent on the energy import from Russia. The volumes of oil and natural gas deliveries by one major supplier was considered a threat for the security of supply of European member states. What if…..Russia…? Especially the transport of gas from Russia to Mid- and West-European countries through East-European states was thought to be vulnerable. A few affairs in wintertime to this respect added to the concern. The fact is that for decades the supply of fuels was reliable and uninterrupted as was often declared by CEO’s of large companies on the buying side.

Of course, diversification of suppliers is always a preferable strategy in whatever business and certainly in the vital sector of energy. However, when is a state of dependency reached? Is there a borderline? In those days Germany, for instance, imported about 30% of its gas usage from Russia, after a steady increase in the years before. And the percentages in a number of other European countries were at the same level or at least at a height that in case of a heavy interruption a reassuring, sufficient and fast back-up was impossible. That could be already contemplated as a depending position.

Diversification is faster said than executed. When those voices were raised, Norway - almost at its peak in fulfilling its export contracts - was not an option. The same applied to The Netherlands, while the UK was facing to become a natural gas importing country. A similar situation was found at the south flank of Europe, where North African countries did their utmost.

More coal use or import was rather unpopular. An increase of nuclear power raised heavy discussions and downright resistance. The call for renewable energy was heard louder by the day for this and other reasons, but the availability of a fast and vast volume was undeniably unrealistic. Also because of the paradox that in the phase of developing a major volume of renewable energy for a long time even more natural gas as back-up was necessary. More LNG looked attractive, was feasible although more expensive and indeed the import rose.

How different the world looks today. In order to get a more secure supply situation, at least less vulnerable, the Russians started with ‘offshore’ transportation of gas. Nord Stream is operational and expanding. South Stream is reaching the construction phase. Other possible supplies lie around the corner in the south-east coming out of the Caucasian and Caspian regions. EER will – besides other topics – pay attention to these developments in the coming weeks. So remarkably enough and a little bit ironically the much desired security of supply for the EU goes hand in hand with a firm increase of volume (or one could say grip) from Russia, while at the same time other suppliers enter the play and add to the diversification of supplying parties. Maybe even Cyprus. And if that’s not change enough, the US is turning into an LNG exporting country, almost revolutionary. Who would have predicted all this ten or even five years ago? The whole situation looks more secure than a while ago. It leads to a new interesting question mark: will this new position bring more transition stimulants?

In today’s main feature Jozef Badida introduces us to developments in the Eastern part of Europe, where the infrastructure is becoming more important and showing a better lay-out. And there is more to come from that direction.