Soaring energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are not just a concern for European households and businesses. The military, too, depends on civilian energy networks, making the security and affordability of supply a critical need. The European Defence Agency (EDA) is intensifying efforts to help EU ministries of defence and partners to develop and apply cleaner, more sustainable energy models at home. This support is part of the European Union’s broader strategy to cut its reliance on fossil fuels and prevent any potential aggressor from using energy dependence as an economic weapon.
“Now more than ever, the EU needs to fast-track the clean transition to avoid being held energy hostage,” EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý said at the EDA Energy Defence Consultation Forum conference in France, last June.
SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
The EU’s efforts at slashing planet-warming emissions and reducing fossil fuel dependency are taking on more urgency after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In their Versailles Declaration, EU leaders in March called not only to bolster EU defence capabilities but to reduce energy dependency on Russian gas, coal and oil imports.
Through the European Green Deal, the EU - the world's third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter – aims to become climate neutral by 2050. That has huge security implications for EU armed forces who should also reduce their carbon footprint to help meet that goal. Taken together, the total energy consumption of Member States’ armed forces equals that of a smaller EU country, according to EDA data. At the same time, diversifying energy sources and increasing the use of renewables can help defence improve its resilience and energy security.
EDA’S KEY PILLARS SUPPORTING EU CLIMATE NEUTRALITY GOALS
The EU’s programme of climate and energy reforms is focused on a range of issues, from looking at ways to develop hydrogen fuel to building a less resource-intensive circular economy. For the EDA, in support of European defence ministries, this rests on three interlinked pillars: the Consultation Forum for Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector, also known as CF SEDSS; the Energy and Environment capability technology group (EnE CapTech); and the Incubation Forum for Circular Economy in European Defence,orIF CEED.
- Funded by the European Commission and Luxembourg’s directorate of defence, IF CEED is the newest of the initiatives, and on 6-7 September held its first annual conference in Luxembourg. It brings together more than 200 experts from companies, universities and governments, as well as 50 representatives from ministries of defence across EU countries to look at ways to help develop a more circular economy in defence.
- The Consultation Forum, meanwhile, is a European Commission initiative run by the EDA since 2015. As the largest defence energy community in Europe, the CF SEDSS project aims to assist defence stakeholders in moving to greener ways of working and reducing their energy footprint while contributing to implementing the EU’s Climate Change and Defence Roadmap and the European Green Deal. To address these targets, the forum focuses on four interrelated areas: energy efficiency and buildings performance; renewable energy sources; protection of defence-related critical energy infrastructure; and policy, research and technology, and funding for defence energy-related projects.
- Lastly, there is the EnE CapTech, whose main purpose is to allow EU governments and experts to exchange best practices for the transition to green energy and to help limit climate change. The group is exploring new technologies, focusing research on areas such as alternative fuels and energy storage, as well as energy efficiency. Another aspect of the CapTech’s work is a methodology to measure the energy needs and consumption of EU military missions and to estimate - and assess the impact of – the greenhouse gases they produce.
These initiatives also pave the way for new projects –for example, based on the work of the Consultation Forum in renewables, the EDA and the European Commission will next month launch the “Symbiosis” project. This innovative venture will identify and address barriers for offshore renewable energy developments in areas used or reserved for present and future military activities and purposes. More offshore wind turbines and solar energy installations can interfere with military radars and communications systems or obstruct the armed forces’ freedom of manoeuvre. As the hub for defence cooperation, the EDA aims to bring European ministries of defence, companies and experts together to overcome such obstacles. Symbiosis is set to produce a map of maritime areas reserved for military and suitable for offshore development, as well as to propose solutions to foster coexistence.
With a limited, 2-million-euro budget, Symbiosis is seen as a precursor to future defence energy projects that could explore further the interlinkages between the defence sector and civilian energy. As defence energy matters feature more prominently in the EU landscape, the EDA is ready to continue working in the best interest of ministries of defence, while participating in EU-wide efforts towards climate neutrality.
More information on the EDA’s work to help build a circular economy in defence is available here.