Despite an urgent need to rebuild and reshape its highly inefficient and outdated energy sector, Ukraine has recently presented a draft of its new energy strategy that looks more like of the same. While the strategy makes mention of modern renewable energy sources, targets for these are low, and nuclear energy still maintains its leading position in the mix. The country’s 15 Soviet-era reactors are expected to bridge the gap in the so-called energy transition until 2035, meaning that they would need to operate twenty years beyond their designed lifetime, posing a threat to neighbouring countries in Europe and beyond.
Ministers, ambassadors and envoys from at least 15 countries, including Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission’s Vice President for the Energy Union, are gathered today in the Azerbaijani capital to discuss the progress on the Southern Gas Corridor, the largest energy project the EU is currently pursuing.
But over the past couple of months, it seems the European Commission’s justifications for this controversial undertaking have been crumbling by the day.
It was ten in the evening on 17 December when my colleague and I arrived in Pljevlja, Montenegro. Although we could feel the smell of burnt coal already while driving there, the minute we set foot out of the car, the air was stifling. “This place reminds me of childhood, it smells like in your grandparents’ house when the chimney was stuffed and all the smoke came inside. Only this is outside", he said, with a scarf pulled over his nose.
On 22 February, more than 70 activists and residents from the Chyhyryn region south of Kyiv protested outside the headquarters of Myronivsky Hliboproduct (MHP), the Ukrainian agribusiness conglomerate owned by one of the country’s richest billionaires. The protesters were airing their grievances against MHP’s plans to greatly expand its poultry operations in Chyhyryn, which locals believe will have a devastating effect on the small and medium sized farmers and the tourist potential of the area.