Geopolitical Tensions Could Rattle Energy Transition

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Eyes around the world are fixed on the Ukraine crisis and escalating geopolitical tensions. Naturally, the chief concerns are protecting human life and finding political resolution. Outside of that, the crisis is throwing potential twists into the energy transition storyline.

So far, questions outnumber answers given that the situation is still unfolding. And shrewd awareness of those unknowns is crucial for the energy industry to prepare for potential uncertainty and upheaval in the days to come. Here are three areas to watch:

  • International cooperation on climate action. Realignment of alliances amid souring Russia-West relations could have knock-on impacts on global climate cooperation. In particular, a strengthening Moscow-Beijing axis could set the course for a differentiated energy transition for non-Western economies, either by slowing that pace or causing a misalignment of strategies. Already frosty relations between China and the West could further splinter in this scenario, potentially undermining partnerships needed for faster climate action.
  • Russia's competitive standing in the new energy economy. This is a long-term concern, with Russia positioning itself to remain a major energy player even after oil and gas demand plummet. The country has laid out grand visions to play a leading role in sectors like hydrogen, carbon capture and renewables, but its actions in Ukraine could deter its ability to find critical partnerships or markets for its products.

    Illustrating the need for cooperation, Russian gas giant Gazprom signaled last year that the European market is key for its hydrogen ambitions, flagging the opportunity to export gas to Europe for use in blue hydrogen. Of course, the challenges would be felt most heavily with Europe but could be lighter when it comes to China.

    Similarly, Russian majors have inked accords with international majors on carbon management, cooperation in CCS, hydrogen, and more. This had been seen as a new area for cooperation with foreign majors and these partnerships might suffer as well. Such deals have been struck between BP and Trafigura, Gazprom Neft and Shell, and Novatek with TotalEnergies.

  • Shifts in thinking on European energy policy. Rising energy security and cost concerns could have a complex, mixed bag of implications for Europe's energy policy direction. Future reliance on Russian gas may well come under sharper scrutiny or hit roadblocks, yet the crisis could lend support for domestic gas projects in Europe that had previously faced environmental resistance, including shale and offshore developments. Europe's bet on a faster renewables buildout could see an added boost. So could nuclear. None of these are fast enough to solve the short-term issues facing Europe, but they could affect policy planning nonetheless.

    In any case, key states and regions are likely to continue prioritizing transition efforts for their own reasons. And some see the crisis as another reason to act on climate. “The crisis shows that Europe is still too dependent on Russian gas," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. "We have to diversify our suppliers and massively invest in renewables," she said, calling this a “strategic investment in our energy independence."

Military Conflict, Security Risk , Policy and Regulation
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