What does German and Polish energy policy mean for ‘the Russian threat’?

Poland and Germany have taken separate paths towards an energy transition – that of ‘energy security’ for Poland, and ‘sustainability’ for Germany; both Germany and Poland’s transitions could threaten Russia’s own energy policy – which is partially reliant on exporting a large volume of extractives to EU states. It is important to investigate the extent of this. This will be done by first outlining and comparing the policies, prospects, and energy mixes of both Poland and Germany, and then assessing their  potential significance for Russia. With a likely British exit from the EU, the impact of these two countries will be even greater for the remaining states of the union. 

“We are now in the process of shaping the energy mix in which coal will again find its place” – these were the words of Donald Tusk (the then Prime Minister of Poland) less than six months after his country hosted the United Nations Climate Change talks. He remarked further that “ … it is important that coal produces energy, that people have work, and that Poland has enough energy”. Poland is relatively carbon-intensive compared to the rest of the EU, and challenges EU norms on combating climate change and increasing the use of renewables. With Donald Tusk President of the European Council, this attitude is especially important, as his position holds influence on EU policy as a whole.

At the same time, Germany has its own distinct policy that can influence the member states of the European Union. The ‘energiewende’, roughly translated as ‘energy turn’, is a set of policies and aims. The energiewende envisions a German energy mix that is nuclear-free, sustainable, innovative, a model of best practice for change in other countries, and has both strong security of supply and demand. At the heart of European electricity grids and gas transit, and being the largest energy user and importer in the EU, Germany’s influence on EU policy is preeminent. Crucially, Germany intends to use its transition as a model for change in other countries – exporting best practice.

For Russia, the energy policies of Germany and Poland could have a strong impact on its own energy policy, economy, and diplomatic leverage. Whilst it may be too early to predict what might happen in the future, it is safe to say that the position of Russian gas on the continent will inevitably change – in the short term possibly to the benefit of the Russian economy but in the long term there will be a shift away. The primacy of energy security in Poland and sustainability in Germany means that there will be a need for different approaches to policymakers in these countries.

I will be publishing an update to this series every Monday for the next few weeks.

List of references available on request

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