Russia’s Energy Future

This is the third in a series of posts charting the energy futures of the largest emitters of CO2. Posts on India and China are here and here respectively. Most numbers here are taken from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration where they chart energy consumption and CO2 emissions through 2040.

Russia is an outlier. It is currently the third largest emitter of CO2 and the third largest consumer of energy. Nobody ever mentions that because they’re all too busy looking at the amount of fuel Russia exports in the form of oil and natural gas.


The DOE estimates that Russia’s energy consumption will rise from 30 quads in 2013 to 38 quads in 2040 and that their CO2 emissions will rise from 1,614 million metric tons to 2,018 mmts over the same time frame.

However, my calculations show Russia declining steadily, due to a drop in p0pulation and GDP–I think things will get steadily tougher for Russia going forward and their energy consumption and CO2 emissions will be just about the same in 2040 as they are today.

But that’s still a lot of energy and CO2. I wrote recently that in terms of their current fuel portfolio, Russia looks like a solid citizen, using a lot of natural gas, nuclear and hydropower, and less coal than the other large emitters. Where, for example, China uses coal for 69% of its primary energy, Russia only uses 15%. In fact, if China and India could just match Russia’s fuel portfolio percentages, the world would heave a sigh of relief.

Could (and will) Russia do more in the way of addressing emissions?

They don’t seem to have plans for increasing the use of coal. The EIA projects Russia to get about the same energy from coal in 2040 as it does today, rising from 53 quads to 57 over the next 25 years.

The EIA thinks Russia will double the energy it gets from nuclear power, from 27 GW to 55 GW. (I don’t think Russia will be able to afford it, but then I’m a pessimist.)

The EIA also has high hopes for Russian hydroelectric power, rising from 50 GW today to 71 GW in 2040.

In other words, on paper Russia looks set to maintain the same percentages across its fuel portfolio between now and 2040.

I personally don’t think it’s going to work out that way. I think major economic troubles will result in increased use of coal for Russia and that lower productivity and a declining GDP will put some of their nuclear and hydroelectric construction plans on hold. But there are a lot of smart people at the EIA and they might be right.

So, my confidence in what I write about Russia’s energy future is lower than say, for China and India.

Next up–another outlier.

8 responses to “Russia’s Energy Future

  1. On the other hand, as oil runs out and prices increase the Russians will earn a lot more from oil and gas sales.

  2. Tom,
    Since climate sensitivity to CO2 as measured by actual impacts is likely quite low, I question why we should care about Russia’s fuel mix nearly as much as their deep cultural need to be a dangerous nuclear armed thugocracy. Your point that long term demographics are against Russia’s future is not comforting enough to offset where they are politically and culturally today.
    Fernando L,
    The world is not running our of oil anymore than it is running out of dirt.

  3. It’s not just demographics, Hunter.Their productivity is really low, they’re experiencing capital flight, their leader seems to think he’s a tsar.

    As Dylan said, “Anyone with any sense had already left town…”

  4. Russia is reacting to USA encroachment. As far as I can see Putin seems to be the neocon punching bag du jour. The current crisis either ends in short order or we may have a very short World War III.

  5. Fernando L, mistaking Ukraine’s pushback against Russia’s corruption of their nation as “US encroachment” is pretty interesting. Ukraine has suffered under the Russians in various ways a *lot*. The faux separatist movement is run out of Moscow. Implying this is all some sort of so-called “neo-con” delusion is to ignore reality.
    However I agree that we are close to a precipice that could wreck so much.

  6. Fernando, I speak as a confirmed lefist here. Russia is acting, not reacting.

    • Thomas, I’m a refugee from communist Cuba. I hate communism. But I also lived in Russia, and I have personal friends on both sides. I also have access to information you don’t see in the media. This leads me to conclude the whole issue is a mindless neocon push for usA imperial domination. But we sure aren’t going to resolve this topic here. Just understand I’m not writing lightly. The whole point of view I see you display reminds me of the way people were lied into backing the Iraq invasion, supporting Clinton’s cockamamie bombing of Yugoslavia, and of course believing the endless bs about Israel “defending itself”. As you can see I’m pretty hard to pin down.

  7. Pingback: Our Global Energy Future | 3000 Quads

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