Technological sovereignty or cooperation?

The focus on low-carbon energy despite external and internal factors does not lose its relevance, said the participants of the seminar “Technological gap on the way of decarbonization of the Russian economy. Scale and ways of overcoming”.



The event was organized by the Global Energy Dialogue Forum of the National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations National (IMEMO RAS) and the Center for Energy Efficiency (CENEF-XXI). The relevance of the topic was confirmed by the fact that the seminar was attended by representatives of government agencies, business, banks and financial organizations, oil and gas and metallurgical companies, academic and applied science.

“Despite the fact that decarbonization now causes a lot of skeptical comments from a number of industry specialists and some agencies that do not recognize the importance of decarbonization, this process is underway,” said Natalia Ivanova, a member of the IMEMO RAS Directorate.

According to Professor Ivanova, in all major countries and in Russia, “government programs and strategies are being implemented to finance R&D, pilot projects, the creation of centers and university laboratories, and the development of new low-carbon technologies. All of this, albeit gradually, is also happening in energy companies, as well as in the transportation, construction and metallurgy sectors”.

The results of the research on the situation with the production and implementation of low-carbon technologies, information on the position and place of Russia in the “technological race” was presented to the participants of the event by Igor Bashmakov, Director of the Energy Efficiency Center.

As a result of their research, CENEF-XXI experts concluded that the policy of full technological sovereignty is “a dead-end path fraught with exorbitant costs with no guarantee of success”.

As the research shows, technological sovereignty is not easy to achieve. For example, the level of production localization is highest in some sectors of the electric power industry - more than 70%, much lower in industry, and one of the lowest (less than 25%) in the transport sector. At the same time, the degree of readiness for scaling and implementation is low for most technologies. It is extremely difficult, and sometimes practically impossible, to bring a technology from idea to commercial use in conditions of technological isolation.

According to analysts, the most effective strategy for Russia is a diverse and geographically balanced international cooperation in the production of low-carbon technologies.

Although cooperation with China leaves Russia with access to various kinds of technologies, analysts consider it important to answer the question of how far Russia is ready to deepen its technological dependence on China, and whether this will not become a problem for the economy.

Igor Bryzgunov, Director of the Russian Wind Industry Association (RWIA), spoke about the fate of renewable energy in Russia. The opinion was voiced that the Government Resolution No. 719 “On Confirmation of Industrial Production” was adopted to lobby a few foreign companies and is now becoming an obstacle to the development of domestic manufacturers. “New incentives and adequate legal mechanisms are needed for the development of domestic wind energy,” the panelists believe.

According to Yury Trofimenko, a professor at Moscow Automobile and Road State Technical University (MADI), the transportation industry will not be spared from low-carbon trends. The expert believes that by 2050 the Russian automobile fleet will be dominated by cars with hydrocarbon fuel (liquid and gaseous) engines. Taking into account the targets set in the Strategy for the Development of the Automotive Industry of the Russian Federation for the period until 2035 and the current realities, the pace of decarbonization of road transport may slow down by about 5 years compared to earlier forecasts.

Skoltech representatives see a low-carbon future in carbon capture, use, and storage (CCS/CCUS) technologies. Ekaterina Grushevenko from the Skoltech Center for Energy Transition said that in Russia there are enough domestic technologies and equipment to start CCS pilot projects. But subsidies are needed. The industry will require the creation of a large-scale pipeline system for CO2 transportation.  She called marine CCS projects on Yamal promising, but noted that there are no appropriate vessels for CO2 transportation in Russia at the moment.

The participants of the event talked a lot about the tasks of state regulation to fulfill the national low-carbon goals and support of business in the creation of technologies and production of equipment. 

Vladimir Voloshin, head of the energy policy sector at the Institute of Economics of the RAS, believes that import substitution should not be turned into a technological iron curtain separating Russia from the world’s leading developments, as it was under the USSR. “It is necessary to look for ways to cooperate with countries that have modern equipment and technologies, to implement the possibilities of international division of labor for the growth of the technological level of the Russian economy.”