Fossil fuel deliveries in the Russian Arctic – embedded choices and new players of the field

Theme 1. Environmental protection
Session Name 1.12 Arctic resource geopolitics, oil and gas - actors, policies, platforms
Datetime Sep 07, 2018 01:55 PM - 02:15 PM (UTC +3)
Location Auditorium II
Presentation Type Oral
Presenter Hilma Salonen
Author(s) Hilma Salonen (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Abstract text

The fuel delivery system supporting the remote settlements of the Russian Arctic (called Северный Завоз) with diesel fuel and coal has been operating for decades despite the high costs and relatively poor energy security it entails. The need for new solutions has been discussed for some time, especially since climate change and worsening road conditions are bound to make the deliveries even more difficult, and expensive, for the Russian state and regions subsidizing them. However, despite its inefficiency, the system has proven to be difficult to be demolished or replaced with alternative, renewable fuels. I argue that this is mainly because the chains of logistics, infrastructure and actors with vested interests from fuel producers to consumers have formed change resistant networks that are difficult to challenge.My presentation examines this dynamic from the viewpoint of new actors, especially in energy field, in the Russian Arctic. The heightened international interest in polar regions affects even the most remote settlements, as new businesses aspire to profit from the alleged ‘opening-up’ of the Arctic. Nearby areas traditionally regarded as peripheral and disconnected, industries wielding newest technologies and strong connections to the outside world arrive and mold the surrounding landscape. I ask whether their presence may help boosting the use of renewables in the off-grid areas of the Russian Arctic, and even if so, is there room for real sustainability discourses in this development, or is improving energy security all that matters?

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