AUSTIN, Texas — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has prompted the European Union (EU) and its member states to impose a partial ban on Russian oil and gas imports “to stop Russia’s war machine” in Ukraine. The blockade caused an increase in the price of fuel and oil in a majority of countries depending on Russian oil. For example, the price of a gallon of gas in Germany is $8.25 as of May 18, 2022. Thus, the ban pushed many Europeans into energy poverty as they could not heat their homes and afford their utility bills. This makes tackling energy poverty in Europe a main priority for the European Union. However, because this is a world problem that requires transnational solutions, the EU is seeking help from other countries and international organizations to address energy poverty in Europe.
Addressing Energy Poverty Impacts
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is cooperating with the EU to address energy poverty in households in countries such as Moldova. The EU is also seeking alternatives to Russian oil and gas by reaching out to other countries that could supply them, which could alleviate the energy poverty in Europe. Thus, addressing energy poverty in Europe is complex and requires working on multiple levels of governance.
Impacts of the Partial Ban
The EU’s partial ban on Russian oil and gas makes it difficult for Europeans to perform essential daily tasks. On June 2, 2022, the UNDP published a study on the Republic of Moldova showing that “60% of Moldova’s population live in energy poverty” and that Moldovans spend more than “10% of their budgets on energy bills.” Similarly, research on the Netherlands conducted by the consulting firm PwC shows that “the average Dutch household will pay [more than]€3,600 for gas and electricity in 2022.” This highlights the challenge the EU faces in tackling energy poverty in Europe.
Alternative Energy Supplies
EU countries are seeking alternatives to Russian oil and gas to keep energy prices low by reaching out to countries that have adequate supplies. On May 26, 2022, Italy signed a deal with Algeria so that it can receive 3 billion cubic meters of gas volumes from Algeria every year. Furthermore, the two countries hope to “reach 9 billion cubic meters (bcm) of extra gas per year by 2023-24.” Similarly, on May 20, 2022, Germany signed an “energy partnership” agreement with Qatar in order to receive supplies of liquified natural gas from Qatar instead of Russia, which stood as its main energy partner. This highlights the willingness of non-European countries to help in tackling energy poverty in Europe.
Organizations Helping to Address Energy Poverty in the EU
Tackling energy poverty in Europe requires the assistance of international humanitarian organizations specialized in dealing with poverty. On June 2, 2022, the UNDP announced that it is cooperating with the EU to provide €10 million in “non-reimbursable support” to the Republic of Moldova to alleviate its energy poverty. Furthermore, the UNDP and the EU are helping Moldova “build the mechanisms” that are necessary to help the 60% of the population struggling with energy poverty. This highlights the international community’s dedication to reducing all forms of poverty around the world, including those that energy drives.
The war between Ukraine and Russia is pushing millions of people around the world into poverty with restrictions on oil, gas and food exports. The EU’s partial ban on Russian oil and gas has a significant impact on Europeans as they now struggle to afford their energy bills. However, the EU has managed to find many geopolitical solutions to energy poverty with many countries in Africa and the Middle East willing to replace Russia as the main oil and gas supplier to Europe.
International organizations such as the UNDP also eased the EU’s burden of addressing energy poverty in Europe by providing aid in the form of money and institutional support. Through partnership and collaboration, countries can form a united front and help each other through dire times by developing solutions to global issues.
– Abdullah Dowaihy