While Russian and European energy codependence is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, a raft of new projects will help Europe diversify its energy supply and security over the medium- and long-term, concluded experts at the opening panel of the Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit’s second day in Istanbul, Turkey.
Led by Ambassador Richard Morningstar, recently named the founding director of the Atlantic Council’s newly unveiled Global Energy Center, Europe’s Energy Security – Challenges and Opportunities also featured a group of top public- and private-sector energy sector experts, including BP Vice President for the Southern Corridor Joe Murphy, US State Department Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy Robin Dunnigan, leading academics Jason Bordoff of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and Alan Riley of the City University of London, and Cheniere President Jean Abiteboul.
Panelists discussed a number of factors that make it difficult for Europe to wean itself off Russian gas in the near-term. Europe is plagued by a lack of affordable alternatives to Gazprom, and until projects like the Southern Corridor are completed and the United States begins exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe in larger quantities, the majority of European energy imports will continue to flow from Russia.
Murphy provided an overview of the efforts to complete the Southern Corridor, a network of pipeline projects designed to deliver gas from the Caspian Sea to Central and Eastern Europe, by 2019 or 2020. The corridor will have a capacity of 30 billion cubic meters (bcm). Murphy noted that gas from the Shah Deniz gas field are presold through the next twenty-five years, but that stable political structure and support would be needed to ensure the pipeline’s timely completion.
Jason Bordoff, a former top White House National Security Council energy and climate change adviser, spoke on Europe’s efforts to balance energy security concerns with carbon emission targets. In their attempts to diversify their energy supply without turning to politically unpopular technologies like hydraulic fracturing, some European countries are burning more coal, a strategy that helps in the short term but will do more harm to the environment over the long term. The challenge for Europe, Bordoff said, is to find ways to leverage new supplies of LNG to reduce dependency on Gazprom without undermining environmental policy.
Riley discussed the ways in which Gazprom is still very much dependent on Europe, as the planned Russian-Chinese pipeline is still years from completion, and the two countries have yet to strike an accord on splitting the costs and responsibilities for construction. Until the pipeline construction is completed, “China is a very difficult place for Gazprom to deliver gas profitably,” he explained. With larger shipments to East Asian markets still a pipe dream, Russia will need to continue to sell to Europe, keeping their leverage in check.
Dunnigan’s remarks focused on the US State Department’s work with European governments to aid negotiations on a gas deal between Russia and Ukraine while also identifying projects that will diversify Ukraine’s energy options over the medium and long term. Even before the crisis in Ukraine broke out, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had established a special bureau within the State Department to work with Europe to prevent energy supply disruptions from Russia. “The United States has been deeply committed to Europe’s energy security for a long time,” she told the audience.
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Eric Gehman is assistant director for publications and communications at the Atlantic Council. Follow him on Twitter at @ericgehman.