Opinion: Will renewable energy sources lead towards energy security?

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Opinion:  Will renewable energy sources lead towards energy security?

The Lithuania Tribune presents an article by Inga Sapronaitytė on the importance of renewable energy sources as published by Centre for Geopolitical Studies (Geopolitika).

renewable energy, windAll countries should give high priority to the development of renewable energy sources (RES) and their effective use.  Alternative energy is one of the ways to establish new jobs, develop a ‘green’ economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Lithuania should also focus on the development of RES and increase its energy independence, since it is still highly dependent on Russia for this. Effective use of RES could increase reliable energy supplies and comply with the environmental requirements of the EU.

After the decommissioning of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in 2009, Lithuania has lost  its biggest and cheapest electricity producer and today the country has to import about 60 per cent of its energy (mainly from  its Eastern neighbours).

The situation wouldn’t be so dangerous for Lithuanian energy security if the country was independent in other energy sectors. Unfortunately, in the gas sector, the Lithuanian economy is 100 per cent dependent on Gazprom, a single Russian supplier; besides, natural gas is also used for electricity production.

Such dependence is threatening. Even short disturbances in supply (e.g. due to technical or political reasons) could have serious economic consequences for Lithuania. Furthermore, high gas prices prevent economic growth and have the potential to impoverish citizens.

Within a period of six years the price of gas supplied to Lithuania has increased five-fold, and according to the data obtained from the Ministry of Energy, Lithuania pays considerably more for gas than other EU Member States which have alternative gas suppliers.

Within a period of six years the price of gas supplied to Lithuania has increased five-fold, and according to the data obtained from the Ministry of Energy, Lithuania pays considerably more for gas than other EU Member States which have alternative gas suppliers.

Since Lithuania does not have major sources of fossil fuels (except probable shale gas), the only way to increase energy security and independence is development of  renewable energy sources.

The key factors preventing from this development include:

Low prices of organic fuel (oil and gas) until 2006. Renewable energy sources could not compete with conventional sources, except  in rural areas where  timber were the cheapest fuel.;

The inherited district heating network in the cities was adapted to use only fuel oil or gas. Modernisation of this field of the economy is very expensive.

solar energy renewableRenewable energy sources are most effectively used in small systems yet there is still lack of local qualified staff and competent authorities.

A sceptical attitude toward renewable energy sources has prevailed in society and among politicians for a long time,  preventing legal and economic incentives.

During the recent decade the situation has changed significantly. Positive changes toward RES (especially in the heating sector) were determined by the restructuring of the sector such as separation of manufacturer and supplier.

Privatisation providing for the emergence of smaller energy producers using RES has also had a sizeable effect, together with increased global organic fuel prices. This has changed the attitude of society and politicians towards renewable energy sources.

Being part of the European Union, Lithuania has an obligation to meet energy requirements. In 2008 the European Commission published a major package of proposed legislation to combat climate change and improve the EU‘s energy security.

Some 20 per cent of the EU‘s energy consumption should be produced from renewable energy sources. The EU Directive Regarding the Incentives for Consumption of Renewable Energy Resources has indicated Lithuania needs to increase this rate to 23 per cent.

The table below indicates the amount of renewable energy sources used by the EU Member States for energy production in 2006 and 2008, and the requirement for 2020.

table

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: http://www.energy.eu/#renewable 

So far the main renewable energy sources in Lithuania were conventional sources used for energy needs, i.e. timber, wood-processing industries waste and hydro-energy. Only during the last five years energy produced by wind power plants has acquired more relevance, as well as bio-fuel used in transport.

According to the National Strategy for the Development of Renewable Energy Sources, logs and wood waste, straw and other agricultural and industrial waste account for approximately 90 per cent in the balance of renewable energy sources. Another 10 per cent consist of biofuel, hydro-energy, wind and geothermal energy.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Lithuania Tribune.
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