Seminarreihe des Arbeitsbereichs Ökonomie am IOS
Zeit: Dienstag, 13.30–15.00 Uhr
Ort: Leibniz-Institut für Ost-und Südosteuropaforschung (IOS); vorerst online via Zoom, Link wird mit den Einladungen verschickt!
Forschungslabor: „Geschichte und Sozialanthropologie Südost‐ und Osteuropas“
Zeit: Donnerstag, 14–16 Uhr (Lehrstuhl) oder 16–18 Uhr (Graduiertenschule und Leibniz-WissenschaftsCampus)
Ort: WiOS, Landshuter Str. 4 (Raum 017)
(Dr. Manuela Troschke)
In Russia, as in other countries, as regards energy efficiency, there is a severe gap between knowledge on what has to be done and how it can be done on one side and implementation of tangible actions on the other side. Barriers to change are not as much on the technical side but in institutional settings. These are hard to change even in societies with a strong and lasting commitment to energy saving and with well-functioning institutions including an efficient regulatory surrounding. None of this exists in Russia, and preconditions for change are even worse due to the legacy of the planned economy.
The energy market in Russia is highly distorted up to date. It is dominated by national and/or regional monopolies in production as well as in distribution; domestic energy prices are not cost recovering, and heavily (cross-) subsidised, strong vested interests are in place. Cheap energy is the foundation for the comparative advantage of many industries, it is used as a social policy measure, and it is not apt to induce a change in consumption behaviour. The IFC/WB study, which focuses on institutional shortcomings in the Russian energy sector, entails a concrete to-do list and political recommendations on how to overcome these distortions.
Many measures recommended by the international community, especially those focusing on liberalisation and privatisation, are well-known for twenty years, but for these twenty years have lacked full implementation. Why should the Russian government start implementing them now? After Kyoto, no international commitments that might put pressure on the government are in place; pressure arising from environmentally conscious voters does not exist in Russia for several reasons. The fundamentals that have shaped the institutional settings of the energy sector have not changed: the sector is required to finance inefficiencies in the national economy and to keep industrial dinosaurs alive, it allows the ruling elites to extract informal rents for their own sake, and it makes Russia a global player on world markets engaged in pipeline policy. State control over the energy sector and extensive growth of production capacities are not only a Soviet legacy, but grant the status quo of governmental officials at all levels. Independent producers and energy saving, however, put this status quo into question.
The Russian documents seem to be a proof of change: the Energy Strategy of Russia for the Period up to 2030 lists the problems of the sector in surprisingly great detail, calls for demonopolisation of all sectors in the energy sphere, for net access for private producers, the introduction for cost-based pricing and other market-conform measures such as the establishment of energy service companies. The Energy Saving and Improvement of Energy Efficiency for the Period up to 2020 programme demonstrates a clear commitment of the government towards saving and efficiency. But is there really hope for change? The Energy Strategy states that gas prices for households will stay capped, price hikes like the ones of 2007 and following years will not take place any more, and market liberalisation will be controlled. Energy saving, on the other hand, cannot be ordered in a command style outside the sectors that are under direct state control. For decades, consumers in the enterprise and household sectors have not been investing in energy saving despite economic viability and even despite profitability. Will information campaigns, tax holidays and state guarantees be sufficient to induce changes? What is going to happen if reduction aims are not met, new refrigerators are not purchased and new pipes are not put in the ground?
If Russia will really start to follow a path of energy saving and energy efficiency, it is not environmental concerns that play a role, but the mere necessity to save resources that become too expensive and scarce to be wasted any more. As such, the mere self-interest of ruling elites that has caused and still causes extreme environmental damage and distortions of the national economy, may now turn to act for the sake of the country and the world community. As in case of many Russian policy measures, the question is who will implement the desired policy. If no concrete reduction aims are elaborated for regional levels and if no sanctions are foreseen in case these aims are not met, neither government officials nor regional officers will do better than paying lip service to realisation of the programmes. While the winds of change exist on central level, weak state governance may cause a standstill once again.