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Expanding Renewable Energy in Russia

Renewable Energy in Russia
Russia is the world’s second-largest producer of natural gas and the third-largest producer of oil. These are powerful sources of energy that are not renewable. However, there is great potential to convert to renewable energy in Russia. Further, if Russia follows the trends in the United States, there is also potential for Russia’s poverty rates to decline by expanding renewable energy industries and the jobs they could bring.

Russian Oil and Natural Gas Industries

The oil and natural gas industries accounted for about 36% of Russia’s federal budget revenues in 2016. In 2020, Russia produced an average of 10.7 million barrels of oil a day.  With this sort of abundance, Europe depends on Russia’s oil production as a chief energy source. In fact, in 2016, Russia provided more than one-third of the oil that European countries imported. As for natural gas, in 2020, the Russian company Gazprom produced more than 431 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

Though as an energy source, oil and natural gas can damage the environment, there is a major benefit to maintaining these industries: they provide so much revenue and so many jobs. Russia’s unemployment rate is low at about 4.5% in 2021. It seems to follow then that without the oil and natural gas industry, the Russian economy could crash. More broadly, arguments have stated that countries that depend on their nonrenewable energy sources could risk increased poverty if they convert to renewables.

Russian Wind and Hydropower Potential

Though they are much less prevalent than their nonrenewable counterparts, there are sources of renewable energy in Russia. Scientists say that renewable resources have even distribution throughout Russia’s large territory. Also, because Russia is so large and has a variety of climates and terrains, it is ripe for the development of renewable energy sources (RES).

Scientists believe that the two RES with the most potential in Russia are wind and hydropower. The electricity that these sources produce would not only provide enough power for Russia but also allow Russia to be able to export to European countries. Unoccupied land in Russia is ideal for new wind and hydropower plants.

This fall Russia began a two-stage solicitation for clean energy projects. It aims to build capacity for up to 6.7 gigawatts (GW) in solar, wind and hydropower. In particular, with 4.7 GW for wind power, this would increase Russia’s wind capacity severalfold from its current 1.4 GW.

Renewable Energy Job Potential

One of the most promising effects of Russia’s transition to renewable energy is the jobs it could bring. To understand that potential, it makes sense to look at what’s happened in the United States. A recent Clean Jobs America report noted that there were more than 3.3 million workers in clean energy in the U.S. which is more than three times that of the number of workers in the fossil fuel industries. Further, the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that through 2026, the two fastest-growing occupations will be solar installer and wind technician.

The oil and gas industries currently dominate the Russian economy and job market. However, the recent push for renewable energy in Russia could be very beneficial in terms of environmental improvements and also through job creation.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr