It is unlikely that people in oil dependent countries would support divestment from the fossil fuel business, but in the case of Russia, this is exactly what researchers found. Shortly before Global Divestment Day, Greenpeace Russia published the results of its poll on the expectations of Russians concerning energy and economic development. People had difficulty answering the question “do you think it is necessary to increase fossil fuel exports from Russia?”: 42.1% replied either “no” or “probably not", while 36.9% answered “yes” or “probably yes”. And yet, the majority - 67.2% of the respondents - want to see Russia become a developed country, with an economy based on high-tech and renewable resources, and not dependent on oil and natural gas 10-20 years from now.
How real are the Russians' aspirations?
Russia has a long-standing scientific interest in renewable energy research. In the early 1930s, the USSR constructed the first utility-scale wind turbine in the world. The first Russian atlas of wind energy resources was published in 1935. Sputnik 3, the first solar-powered satellite, went into orbit in 1957.1 And then, in late 50s, the government decided to switch industry and export from coal to oil, which, along with discovery of "Big Oil" in Western Siberia, determined Russia’s politics and economics for many years to follow.
If the right conditions emerge, this scientific interest will have an unbeatable array of opportunities for realization in Russia, the country that has all possible sources of renewable energy, from geysers to biomass. “The economic potential for development of renewable energy sources in Russia could cover 35% of the country’s total primary energy supply,”2 says Pavel Bezrukikh, deputy director of The Russian State Institute of Energy Strategy.
Back in 2005, the last time I saw Bezrukikh, he was busy destroying myths around renewables, such as “wind power is too expensive” and “the intermittent energy cannot be efficient”. It seems like ten years later he is forced to fight against the same superstitions, and continues pushing this boulder up the hill. Clearly, the unpersuasive evidence, given the successful implementation of renewable technologies in neighboring countries, cannot be the main reason for Russia’s reluctance to invest in renewable energy. So what is it and how can we turn the tables? I will write about it in my next blogpost.
Meanwhile, Happy Divestment Day!