U.S. agency spends millions on Ukraine energy projects

Source: Maya Earls, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2019

The United States is spending millions to help Ukraine achieve energy independence and lower greenhouse gases, despite the Trump administration rolling back efforts to decrease emissions domestically.

One of the key aid programs is the Energy Security Project, launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2018. Scheduled to last until 2023, the program seeks to help Ukraine improve energy security, support energy resilience and increase production of renewable energy sources.

There are no indications that funding for energy projects was affected amid reports President Trump ordered a hold on military aid to Ukraine ahead of a July phone call in which he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.

California-based company Tetra Tech Inc. is putting in place the Energy Security Project. The company previously announced that USAID awarded it an $85 million contract for the project. In a statement, Tetra Tech CEO Dan Batrack said his company is pleased to support USAID’s work to “improve energy efficiency and supply while stimulating economic growth for the region and its citizens.”

USAID has three other programs with Ukraine. Two scheduled to end in December 2019 focus on energy regulatory support and electricity system operations. A third, scheduled to last until 2023, focuses on reducing corruption in the energy sector.

Overall, USAID has spent more than $3 billion supporting Ukraine since 1992.

The agency’s current efforts have implications both from a climate change perspective and a national security perspective.

Historically, Ukraine has been one of the highest greenhouse gas emitters in the world. Data from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change shows the country emitted 265 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, which accounted for about 0.7% of the world’s emissions.

One reason emissions are so high in Ukraine is its energy inefficiency. The carbon intensity of the country’s gross domestic product is 1.9 times higher than the global average and 3.8 times higher than 28 E.U. member states, according to the UNFCCC.

At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to climate change impacts that further threaten the efficiency of the country’s energy sector. USAID reports that rising temperatures are decreasing the performance of the country’s gas distribution systems, extreme weather events are disrupting its power supply and rising seas are contributing to coastal erosion that threatens the country’s energy infrastructure.

From a national security perspective, Ukraine has increasingly sought energy independence after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The country nearly faced a winter without coal after Russia cut off supplies in 2015 (Climatewire, Sept. 26).

And it currently faces another dispute with Russia over a natural gas pipeline. The United States has indicated it will side with Ukraine (Greenwire, May 23).

Ukraine’s president emphasized the country’s relationship with the United States and its need for energy independence in the July phone call, according to a memo released this week. Zelenskiy said he and Trump again discussed energy security during a meeting in New York on Wednesday.

“We want to be truly independent and have a lot of cases, so that no one twists our arm on gas, energy security, coal,” he said in a statement posted on his official website. “We have discussed it all.”