Quite apart from the appalling human tragedy it has caused, Russia’s unprovoked aggression against the brave people of Ukraine has triggered a radical rethink on energy security.
For too long, European economies have been too dependent on natural gas from Russia, which possesses the world’s largest reserves and supplies around 40 percent of the total consumed in the European Union. Germany, the EU’s leading economy, imports 32 percent of its gas from Russia, while some of the newer Eastern Member States are virtually completely dependent on Russian gas.
Vladimir Putin fully understands the importance of controlling gas supplies. His doctoral thesis, entitled “Mineral Natural Resources in the Strategy for Development of the Russian Economy”, noted that:
“A highly developed raw materials base is a necessary condition for the competitiveness of the state’s military-industrial complex and creates a necessary strategic reserve and potential.”
For Putin, therefore, natural gas is a strategic resource that can be utilised as a weapon of war, which he is entirely willing to do. Twice before Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, he unhesitatingly cut off Ukraine’s supply of gas.
Indications of Putin’s intent were therefore perfectly clear; yet Europe continued its unwise dependence on Russian fuel. Germany, in particular, agreed to the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline to speed the flow of Russian gas. That project is now on ice after Chancellor Scholz’s decision to suspend the process of certification in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
Scholz, however, knows only too well how vulnerable Germany is to interruption of the gas supply, and is now scrambling to identify other sources of energy, including burning more coal, previously considered unthinkable.
The United Kingdom, fortunately, is considerably less reliant on Russian gas, which accounts for only around 3 percent of our national requirement. Most of the gas consumed here comes from our own reserves in the North Sea and from the friendly country of Norway. Nevertheless, Russia’s aggression has underlined the need to ensure that our supply of energy is secured.
The Government will therefore soon announce the British Energy Security Strategy, which will set out how the country can be self-reliant for energy and not susceptible to blackmail from the likes of Putin.
The Strategy should be an opportunity for North Wales to realise its potential for energy generation. Nuclear and tidal schemes should be advanced as a matter of priority. The Prime Minister has already said that he wants to announce a new nuclear project in this Parliament. Where better than Wylfa, once described to me by Hitachi’s senior engineer as the best site for a nuclear station he had seen anywhere in the world.
Small modular nuclear reactors, too, must be developed, with Trawsfynydd an obvious location.
And now is the time to go full steam ahead with the proposed Colwyn Bay tidal lagoon.
Achieving security of energy supply requires a national effort of wartime proportions. And North Wales is well placed to play its full part in that effort.