December 4, 2023No Comments

Quill Robinson on the Nexus of Climate Change and Security

Quill Robinson talks about the intersection of climate and security. He delves into the topics of energy security, the role of China and the U.S., and shares his thoughts on COP28 (about to take place in the week of the interview's recording).

Quill Robinson is a Senior Program Manager and Associate Fellow in the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Interviewers: Idriss El Alaoui Talibi, Michele Mignogna, Iris Raith, Frederik Steinhauser - Defense & Procurement Team

April 30, 2022No Comments

Dr Widdershoven on the Gulf States’ Energy Strategy in the Context of the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict

Dr. Cyril Widdershoven talks about the energy strategy pursued by the Gulf States in the context of the current war in Ukraine. Dr. Cyril Widdershoven is a long-experienced expert in oil and gas and geopolitics and the founder of Verocy.

In this session, Dr. Widdershoven considers the reasons for the Gulf States to act the way they are, avoiding an active engagement in energy price reduction. After an overview of the Gulf States' green energy policies, Dr. Widdershoven analyzes the consequences of the EU's sanctions on Russia on relations between Europe and energy powers in the Gulf.

Interviewers: Riccardo Bosticco & Michele Mignogna

This is ITSS Verona Member Series Video Podcast by the Political Economy and Energy Security Team.

ITSS Verona - The International Team for the Study of Security Verona is a not-for-profit, apolitical, international cultural association dedicated to the study of international security, ranging from terrorism to climate change, from artificial intelligence to pandemics, from great power competition to energy security.

February 28, 2022No Comments

ITSS Verona 2021/22 Webinar Series: “Energy Security: The View from Post-Brexit UK”, with Vicky Pryce

For the first ITSS Verona - Hume Institute joint event, members Carlotta Rinaudo and Elena Bascone - along with the Political Economy, Development, and Energy Security Team - discuss energy security and its importance for Europe with Ms Vicky Pryce, one of Britain's top economists, and with Prof Mohammed Abdel-Haq.

February 10, 2022No Comments

Fuel Price Spike in Kazakhstan: Straw that broke the camel’s back?

By: Elena Bascone, Michele Mignogna, Miguel Jiménez and Sofia Dal Santo.

Holiday seasons often trigger unexpected crises, as the last two years proved: after the 2020 pandemic, a new global threat is on the rise - a global energy crisis. This new emergency is so severe that even Kazakhstan, the biggest central Asian country and one of the major producers of fossil fuels, was unable to escape it. At the beginning of January, the price per liter for liquified petroleum gas (LPG) more than doubled, increasing from 50 to 120 Tenges (about $0.27), and violent protests exploded in the country. LPG is mainly used for vehicles, but even for cooking and warming up during the severe Kazakh winter, making it a primary necessity. Energetic scarcity then fostered the explosion of violent protests all over Kazakhstan. Resulting in the death of 225 people, these demonstrations are unprecedented. The outbreak took place in Zhanaozen, in the southwest of the country, known as the capital of oil and gas, and spread all over the country in a few days. Peaceful demonstrations soon escalated into violent aggressions such as dangerous attacks on government buildings and clashes against police officers. However, rising energy prices are only the tip of the iceberg.

The Roots of the Protests

The country can attract millions of dollars of foreign investment due to its apparent political stability. Nevertheless, this political stability has been characterized by an authoritarian government led for three decades by Nazarbayev, eventually substituted by the current Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, by most regarded as his hand-picked successor. The relationship between them is confirmed by the fact that the latter appointed the former president as Head of the Security Council, and declared him Yelbasy, i.e., “the Father of the Nation.” This lack of democracy, combined with the over-rising income inequality due to a drop of GNI and further worsened by the pandemic, explains the protests’ origins. As of now, a quarter of the central Asian republic’s population is considered chronically poor.

This is ironic since, as a significant oil and gas producer, Kazakhstan produces much more LPG than its less than 19 million inhabitants can consume. However, existing domestic energy companies prefer to export it rather than sell it to the domestic market. Accordingly, the country’s authorities have tried to increase the supply of LPG through purchases from Russian companies, which sell it at prices 3-8 times higher than the domestic ones. Moreover, these gas supply contracts with the Russian companies are undisclosed and untransparent, thus encouraging corruption and the enrichment of the Kazakh and Russian elites.

The Government Response

All in all, given the growing anti-Nazarbayev sentiment, it is understandable why the song “Old man, go away!” soon spread among the protestors. Even the bold concessions given by Mr. Tokayev, such as the removal of his predecessor from his place as Head of the Security Council and the acceptance of the government’s resignation, substituting it with an ad-interim administration, has not proved to be sufficient to calm down the protestors. Moreover, the absence of pluralism and the intolerance of opposition in the political life of Kazakhstan prevents protestors from finding representation on an institutional level. This lack of opposition allows Mr. Tokayev to blame, although without evidence, “foreign-trained terrorist gangs” for the protests to justify a punitive response; notwithstanding, while the use of force may crush protests, it can only amplify the underlying anger.

Punitive responses immediately occurred: from the shutdown of the internet to the president’s public declaration addressing the special forces to “fire without warning”, as reported by BBC news. This declaration triggered the critics of the international community, from the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the chairman in office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Polish lawyer Zbigniew Rau. Overwhelmed by demonstrators, President Tokayev, following the soviet style of dealing with civil unrest, made a formal request for assistance to the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance headquartered in Moscow. 

The peacekeeping mission was speedily approved. Alongside Russia, even Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan sent contingents to Kazakhstan for a total of almost 3000 soldiers. The mission has been defined by Andrei Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), a Kremlin-linked think tank, as “less an armed intervention than a police operation.” As it is common knowledge, it is always risky to welcome home foreign troops, especially considering the assertive policy perpetrated by Russia on the European side. Nevertheless, the paratroopers made their way back as soon as the order was re-established. Still, it is essential to highlight the significance of this intervention for the future of international relations in Asia, considering the growing influence of China and its resulting possible conflict of interest with Russia.


The intervention of the CSTO led to a stabilization of the protests, at least for the moment. Moreover, according to The Guardian, Mr. Tokayev said that the ad interim government would re-introduce a price cap of 50 tenges per liter on LPG in Mangistau province, considering that it is a socially necessary consumer good. In addition, it is essential to bear in mind that it is likely that this crisis will have consequences in the context of future relations between Russia and Kazakhstan. The intervention of Russia might undermine the hard-won independence of the central Asian republic. However, we will have to wait to see the long-term effects of these events on the power dynamics of Central Asia. One thing remains certain: this region is crucial now more than ever. Indeed, as Alexander Cooley indicated, this region, which used to be disputed between Russia and the UK, is now at the center of a new great game - a power contest that sees the US, Russia, and China involved.

February 8, 2022No Comments

Italian Energy Security Policy and its Role in the Arctic (Italiano)

By: Filippo Grassi, Sarah Toubman, Maria Chiara Aquilino

This past September, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi introduced measures to reduce gas and electricity bills this winter by three billion euros, as power prices soar across Europe.

The new energy crisis affecting Italy and the European Union is largely connected to the current situation in Ukraine. Military tensions in Eastern Europe have deteriorated relations between Russia, Europe’s largest gas exporter, and the EU. In the face of rising tensions with NATO, Russia cut off several gas pipelines into Europe, with flows into Germany and Poland restricted. This has further encouraged the EU’s transition to renewables and strengthened its energy partnership with the United States.

Recently, the European Union has adopted a two-pronged approach which includes decarbonisation processes and the diversification of energy market partners. This is aimed to reduce the Union’s dependency on Russian gas and to shift towards a low-carbon future by phasing out fossil fuels.

Italian Prime Minister Draghi has himself argued that there is the urgent need for Europe to diversify energy supplies and strengthen the bargaining power of purchasing countries to help curb power and gas price rises. Nevertheless, despite its declarations and intentions, Italy is struggling to keep up with other major EU economies and their actions to fully decarbonise the EU electricity system by 2035, aligning with 1.5°C, and to diversify its energy partners. 

While many nations aim to use renewables for 75% or more of their electrical consumption by 2030, Italy has set a target of only 55%. The country is also behind in its 2030 wind and solar target, and Ember’s Global Electricity Review 2020revealed that Italy’s retired coal generation is instead being replaced by fossil gas. Consequently, Italy could potentially reach one of the highest shares of fossil gas in its generation mix by 2030, accounting for 38% of its electricity production.

However, the need for a greater supply of backup energy generation, also known as a capacity mechanism, in Italy, has led to this further investment in natural gas. Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power plants are offered up to €70 per kW each year, as a result incentivizing often uneconomical gas companies and discouraging clean energy production. The recent crisis in energy supplies and costs has only reconfirmed that the European Union cannot solely rely on imported fossil fuels--in the past year, electricity prices in Italy have nearly tripled. 

Recently, ENI, Italy’s National Hydrocarbons Agency and largest oil and gas company, has committed to a Climate Strategy with the aim of reducing the impact of its oil production projects and enhancing a low-carbon economic transition. In particular, Italian strategy is oriented towards the exploitation of natural resources, especially liquefied natural gas, present in the Arctic. Indeed, according to the estimates of the United States Geological Survey the region is expected to hold 15% of the world's remaining oil deposits, 30% of its natural gas deposits and around 20% of its liquefied natural gas. Consequently, a number of Italian producers, including ENI, Saipem, and Nuovo Pignone, are contributing to the development of the Arctic-LNG 2 and Yamal LNG projects to extract gas in northern Siberia. Although these are technically private business ventures, with Russian corporation Novatek owning 60% of the shares of Arctic-LNG 2, they remain deeply linked to Russian state interests, rendering the effort to reduce energy dependence futile. Indeed, Gazprom, the Russian state energy organization, owns 10% of Novatek. Additionally, the Italian National Agency for Electricity (ENEL) is currently helping build the Kolskaya wind plant in Russia’s Murmansk region, which would be the largest wind power plant in the Arctic Circle. Thus, while Italy is clearly making an effort to divest from some forms of fossil fuels, it remains reliant on natural gas and even renewables from Russia. To ensure energy security resilience against events like the Russia-Ukraine crisis in the future, Italy would have to further diversify its energy sources, and the countries from which they are obtained. 

Nevertheless, Enel, Italy’s largest power utility (and the world’s second largest), recently announced a 2040 fossil gas phase-out, ten years ahead of schedule. This is a clear signal that it recognises the future lies in greater electrification powered by renewables. Overall, Italy’s energy policy is pro-renewables. In 2017, Italy passed an updated National Energy Strategy, subsequently ratified in 2020, through which it is committed to attaining Europe’s environmental and decarbonisation targets by 2030 in sustainable ways, in line with the targets set by COP21. Thus, in recent years, the country has successfully integrated renewable generation into its electricity system, especially improving discrepancies in the infrastructure between north and south. Still, more work clearly would be needed to successfully transition Italy away from fossil fuels and diversify energy sources.

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La politica energetica italiana e il suo ruolo nell'Artico 

Lo scorso settembre, il primo ministro italiano Mario Draghi ha introdotto misure per ridurre le bollette di gas ed elettricità di tre miliardi di euro, mentre i prezzi dell'energia salgono in tutta Europa.

La nuova crisi energetica che colpisce l'Italia e l'Unione europea è in gran parte legata alla situazione attuale in Ucraina. Le tensioni militari nell'Europa orientale hanno deteriorato le relazioni tra la Russia, il più grande esportatore europeo di gas, e l'UE. Di fronte alle crescenti tensioni con la NATO, la Russia ha bloccato diversi gasdotti verso l'Europa, limitando i flussi verso la Germania e la Polonia. Ciò ha ulteriormente incoraggiato la transizione dell'UE verso le energie rinnovabili e rafforzato il partenariato energetico con gli Stati Uniti.

Recentemente, l'Unione europea ha adottato un duplice approccio che comprende i processi di de-carbonizzazione e la diversificazione dei partner del mercato energetico. L'obiettivo è ridurre la dipendenza dell'Unione dal gas russo e orientarsi verso un futuro a basse emissioni di carbonio, eliminando gradualmente i combustibili fossili.

Lo stesso Primo Ministro italiano Draghi ha sostenuto che l'Europa ha urgente bisogno di diversificare gli approvvigionamenti energetici e rafforzare il potere contrattuale dei paesi acquirenti per contribuire a frenare l'aumento del potere e dei prezzi del gas. Nonostante questo, nonostante le dichiarazioni e le intenzioni, l'Italia sta lottando per tenere il passo con le altre principali economie dell'UE e le loro azioni per de-carbonizzare completamente il sistema elettrico dell'UE entro il 2035, allineandosi all'1,5 C, e per diversificare i suoi partner energetici. 

Mentre molte nazioni puntano ad utilizzare le rinnovabili per il 75% o più del loro consumo elettrico entro il 2030, l'Italia ha fissato un obiettivo di appena il 55%. Il paese è anche in ritardo nel suo obiettivo 2030 eolico e solare, e Ember Global Electricity Review 2020 ha rivelato che la produzione di carbone in pensione in Italia è invece stata sostituita da gas fossile. Di conseguenza, l'Italia potrebbe raggiungere una delle quote più alte di gas fossile nel suo mix di generazione entro il 2030, rappresentando il 38% della sua produzione di energia elettrica.

Tuttavia, la necessità di una maggiore fornitura di energia di riserva, nota anche come meccanismo di capacità, in Italia, ha portato a questo ulteriore investimento nel gas naturale. Le centrali a turbina a gas a ciclo combinato sono offerte fino a 70 euro per kW ogni anno, il che incentiva le aziende a gas spesso antieconomiche e scoraggia la produzione di energia pulita. La recente crisi degli approvvigionamenti energetici e dei costi ha solo riconfermato che l'Unione europea non può contare unicamente sulle importazioni di combustibili fossili: nell'ultimo anno i prezzi dell'elettricità in Italia sono quasi triplicati. 

Recentemente, ENI, l'Agenzia Nazionale degli Idrocarburi e la più grande società petrolifera e del gas, si è impegnata in una Strategia per il Clima con l'obiettivo di ridurre l'impatto dei suoi progetti di produzione petrolifera e di favorire una transizione economica a basse emissioni di carbonio. In particolare, la strategia italiana è orientata allo sfruttamento delle risorse naturali, in particolare del gas naturale liquefatto, presente nell'Artico. Infatti, secondo le stime dello United States Geological Survey, la regione dovrebbe detenere il 15% dei giacimenti petroliferi rimanenti del mondo, il 30% dei suoi giacimenti di gas naturale e circa il 20% del suo gas naturale liquefatto. Di conseguenza, alcuni produttori italiani, tra cui ENI, Saipem e Nuovo Pignone, stanno contribuendo allo sviluppo dei progetti Arctic-LNG 2 e Yamal LNG per l'estrazione di gas nella Siberia settentrionale. Sebbene si tratti di imprese tecnicamente private, con la società russa Novatek che detiene il 60% delle azioni di Arctic-LNG 2, rimangono profondamente legati agli interessi dello Stato russo, rendendo inutile lo sforzo di ridurre la dipendenza energetica. Infatti, Gazprom, l'organizzazione statale russa per l'energia, possiede il 10% di Novatek. Inoltre, l'Agenzia Nazionale Italiana per l'Elettricità (ENEL) sta attualmente aiutando a costruire la centrale eolica di Kolskaya nella regione russa di Murmansk, che sarebbe la più grande centrale eolica del Circolo Polare Artico.

Così, mentre l'Italia sta chiaramente facendo uno sforzo per disinvestirsi da alcune forme di combustibili fossili, rimane dipendente dal gas naturale e persino dalle energie rinnovabili provenienti dalla Russia. Per garantire la resilienza alla sicurezza energetica di eventi come la crisi Russia-Ucraina in futuro, l'Italia dovrebbe diversificare ulteriormente le proprie fonti energetiche e i paesi da cui sono ottenute. 

Tuttavia, Enel, la più grande utility elettrica d'Italia (e la seconda al mondo), ha recentemente annunciato un'eliminazione graduale del gas fossile nel 2040, dieci anni prima del previsto. Questo è un chiaro segnale che riconosce che il futuro risiede in una maggiore elettrificazione alimentata da fonti rinnovabili. Nel complesso, la politica energetica italiana è a favore delle energie rinnovabili. Nel 2017 l'Italia ha approvato una Strategia Energetica Nazionale aggiornata, successivamente ratificata nel 2020, attraverso la quale si impegna a raggiungere gli obiettivi ambientali e di de-carbonizzazione dell'Europa entro il 2030 in modo sostenibile, in linea con gli obiettivi fissati dalla COP21. Così, negli ultimi anni, il paese ha integrato con successo la produzione di energia rinnovabile nel suo sistema elettrico, in particolare migliorando le discrepanze nelle infrastrutture tra nord e sud. Tuttavia, sarebbe necessario un maggiore impegno per riuscire a portare l'Italia lontano dai combustibili fossili e a diversificare le fonti energetiche.

April 4, 2021No Comments

Dr Maltby on Energy Security, EU Politics, Climate Change, and Covid-19

Dr Tomas Maltby, KCL, explores definitions and concepts of "Energy Security" and how these affect strategies and approaches within the EU context. Particular emphasis is also allocated on how energy security relates to climate change and pandemics/Covid-19.