Oleksandr Riepkin is the Special Representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine on the Economic Diplomacy. In this piece, he calls for investment in domestic green hydrogen production - not just as a measure to get off Russian fossil fuels but to rebuild Ukraine’s economy.
Europe’s collective energy security is under threat. The need is immediate and acute - but green hydrogen produced in Ukraine can help us replace Russian fossil fuels.
Leaders must not overlook this crucial source of energy as they seek to reconstruct Ukraine, and swap Putin’soil and gas for something greener.
Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine is prompting European countries to make long-overdue changes to their energy mix. Europeans everywhere support a swift move away from Russian fossil fuels.
In Brussels, political energy is being devoted to applying pressure to Russia, depriving Putin of the resources he needs to wage war on Ukraine. Putin’s aggression has made it painfully clear to Europe and the rest of the world that energy dependence on Russia inevitably creates political dependence.
That in turn means that Europe’s dependence on Russia poses a threat to global security. It now seems inevitable that Europe will stop importing all fossil fuels from the country, perhaps even sooner than the 2025 deadline the Commission and Ursula von der Leyen proposed in their first plan.
Putin is leaving Europe with no choice. His willingness to tear up contracts, turn off gas taps almost at random, the war crimes that his troops continue to commit in Ukraine and his threats aimed at NATO members will force Europe’s hand.
Putting Europe’s energy at the mercy of Russia
In early April, the European Parliament called on EU countries to "impose an immediate full embargo on imports of Russian oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas."
In some countries, this is already a reality. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have already completely stopped importing gas from Russia. By the end of the year, 90 per cent of Russian oil imports will be banned.
We know this will cause challenges in the short and medium term. But is it any wiser a policy to leave European pensioners at the mercy of an increasingly volatile dictator who is prepared to turn off the taps at a moment’s notice? Especially at a time when Europe is most vulnerable.
Clearly to avoid further Russian interference in the sovereign policy of the European countries these challenges need to be overcome. Where Russia intervenes, eventually, we should expect suffering, blood and death.
It is not years, but months before the EU renounces energy from Russia. The alternative is the rapid expansion of European renewable energy production. Among the bloc’s options is green hydrogen, the energy source with the greatest potential.
When deciding where to source this fuel, the EU should kill two birds with one stone and look no further than Ukraine.
Ukraine could supply Europe with Hydrogen
Ukraine has everything needed to become a successful European player in the hydrogen market - and an important supplier of energy to the EU.
The cities of Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv, Odesa and Kherson all get as much or more sunshine than central Italy. Thanks to these regions alone, Ukraine would be able to provide enough green hydrogen for both domestic needs and the needs of Europe.
Ukraine is already developing two projects with the capacity to produce green hydrogen that would generate 100 MW of energy. According to the European engineering companies involved in their implementation, these projects are already ahead of most projects in the region.
Potential evaluation studies have been carried out, and we can already say with certainty that the Odesa region could generate up to 3 GW of green hydrogen. The 'Danub; project, which was planned before the war, will build several hydrogen production facilities for export to the EU in Lviv and in Odesa.
If successful, green hydrogen will replace the Russian gas in our pipelines. Putin’s invasion has stalled Ministers’ approval of the Ukrainian Hydrogen Council’s plan. It was presented just a few months before the war began.
Yet still, Ukraine is still pursuing hydrogen transformation and full energy independence from Russia. We believe that in just a few years, Ukraine can build 10 gigawatts of green hydrogen production capacity. It will be used for our domestic market, but also exported to EU countries.
Ukraine can become a guarantor of new European energy independence.
Guaranteeing European energy independence
Recently in Brussels, at the European Parliament, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen underlined that Ukraine is a member of the European family. That is true today and will be true for decades to come.
We are not coming to Brussels begging on our knees, as a victim of Putin’s war. We come to Brussels standing proud, with an offer for Europe. We can help build energy independence across the continent by developing green hydrogen at home.
We are counting on cooperation with our European partners. After the war, which has brought us together so powerfully, we will rebuild Ukraine. The rapid development of hydrogen energy will be an important stage in this revival.
Scientific cooperation, joint projects and European investment in the Ukrainian hydrogen sector – this is how we will not just rebuild Ukraine, but also significantly enhance Europe's energy security.
Leaders should not miss this two-for-one opportunity.