What will it take to fill the Russian energy gap?

As Europe scrambles to fill Russia’s energy gap following the downing of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, world leaders are turning to alternative sources to keep lights on and heating going through the cold winter ahead. USC experts share their views on how Europe will adapt to the current energy shortage and whether sustainable alternatives are enough to make up the difference.


Energy Crisis in Europe: A self-sabotaged energy policy laid the groundwork for Russian manipulation

The pain Europe is currently feeling may have been self-inflicted, experts say. Steven Lamy, professor emeritus of political science, international relations and space science at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, notes that Europe’s mistake lies in its preference for cheaper, short-term contracts. term with Russian energy suppliers rather than for long-term investments in the development of its own infrastructure and supply chain networks.

Lamia: “The European crisis was largely predictable. In terms of energy, you want a balanced and diversified policy; you don’t want vulnerability where someone controls your future in a particular policy area. Europe made the mistake of relying on Russian natural resources and not maintaining a diverse network of suppliers. For example, they have not built ports for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG), a natural gas that is cooled to a liquid state and used in areas too remote to reach by pipelines. Europe instead relied on Nord Stream pipelines. Now countries like Germany that don’t have LNG terminals are going to spend billions storing the alternative energy on barges at sea.”


Detlof von Winterfeldt, professor of engineering and industrial and systems policy, planning and development at the USC Price School of Public Policy, explains Germany’s precarious position in the global conflict.

from Winterfeldt: “Germany’s dependence on energy imports has increased due to its decision in 2011 to phase out nuclear power by 2022. The result has been greater dependence on – vis-à-vis French electricity imports (mainly of nuclear origin) and Russian gas imports. The decision was supported by a large majority of German political parties, mainly in response to the Fukushima accident, but it was taken without any serious analysis of the consequences or emergency scenarios.


Leading supply chain management expert and associate professor of clinical data science and operations at the USC Marshall School of Business, Nick Vyas says energy dependency is a symptom of a larger problem to the developing world’s appetite for raw materials.

vya: “Europe has always known that a large part of the energy passes through Russia. The noise was there over a year ago and before the invasion of Ukraine. But it’s not just Europe that made this mistake. Companies around the world – from Fortune 500 multinationals – have had the opportunity to understand their supply chain networks and dependencies. Over the past 40 years, we’ve grown accustomed to getting cheaper goods and services – in this case, energy – faster and faster. We put mitigation, risk analysis and modeling on the back burner, hoping never to have to deal with the issues that are now part of our reality.


Impacts on the European economy

Shon Hiatt, global energy expert and associate professor of management and organization at USC Marshall, takes a similar position. Hiatt explores the economic ramifications of Russia’s decision to cut off natural gas supplies to Europe.

Hiatt: “Cutting Europe off from cheap Russian gas has been economically disastrous for Europe, and Germany in particular, which is Europe’s manufacturing powerhouse. Before the invasion of Ukraine, Germany bought about twenty billion dollars worth of natural gas from Russia every year. That $20 billion in natural gas was equivalent to $2 trillion in value-added production. That’s a hundred times the leverage that, if not corrected quickly, can permanently cripple Germany’s manufacturing base.


Are coal and nuclear back?

Robert English, Russia and Ukraine expert and associate professor of international relations at USC Dornsife, notes that the EU’s efforts to find alternative energy sources come at the expense of its goal of becoming climate-friendly. neutral by 2050.

English: “Europe is scrambling to find alternative sources. They import more from North Africa and other African countries. They also start using more coal again, even though they have already eliminated the dry coal. And Germany has delayed closing its nuclear reactors. So they’re plugging the holes, but they’re doing it at the expense of their goals of getting rid of carbon fossil fuels.

Najmedin Meshkati, professor of engineering and international relations at USC Viterbi, explains why the answer to this question is nuanced. Meshkati is an award-winning expert in large-scale technology systems and has published dozens of articles on nuclear safety, including a recent letter in The New York Times and several articles in The Conversation.

Meshkati: “Germany was supposed to shut down its three remaining nuclear reactors by December. The German cabinet reluctantly took the decision to extend the life of these reactors until the spring of 2023 just to get through the winter. However, they also passed a law that whatever fuel they have, they must use it and they must not buy more nuclear fuel for the remaining reactors, which essentially chokes nuclear energy.


Avoiding Disaster: Options for Moving Forward in the Context of Europe’s Energy Crisis

Europe has two options, according to Adam Rose, expert in energy and environmental economics and research professor at USC Price: find alternative sources or conserve.

Pink: “You have a situation where several countries in Europe, in particular the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Germany, are the most vulnerable. The Scandinavian countries have vast gas resources. Interestingly, France is the least vulnerable because 70% of its electricity still comes from nuclear energy. Countries have two ways out of this interdependence: find alternative sources or conserve.

“Alternative sources are mostly renewable energy. There has been a major boost, but it is still insufficient to really make a difference when it comes to Russian energy. Electricity prices in Europe are expected to double as a result of the crisis. And reducing dependency through renewable energy is going to take years, so the option we have left is to really reduce. We are likely to see power outages and brownouts across Europe over the coming winter. »

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