The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has released its Energy Sector Strategy 2024-28. EBRD says it “prioritises the urgent need to accelerate the decarbonisation of energy through scaling up renewables, enhancing grids and storage, promoting zero-carbon fuels and phasing out unabated fossil fuels. 

The 55-page report dismisses nuclear in one small paragraph. It says: “The Bank will continue to consider funding for safety improvements to operating plants, as well as for radioactive waste management and the decommissioning of nuclear facilities. Recognising the role nuclear energy will play in the energy transition, we will continue to monitor developments in the nuclear sector and the needs of our countries of operation. Should any opportunities in line with the EBRD’s private sector mandate emerge, we will revisit our current approach.”

The aim of the strategy “is to accelerate the vital energy transition in the economies where the Bank operates, while ensuring that the transition drives economic growth and social development”. This “is consistent with the EBRD’s commitment to aligning its activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Bank’s Strategic and Capital Framework (SCF) (which prioritises supporting the transition to a green, low-carbon economy, promoting equality of opportunity and accelerating the digital transition) and to achieving an annual green finance ratio of at least 50% by 2025”.

The Banks says “these factors and challenges in the EBRD regions have led to two strategic directions”:

  • accelerating the decarbonisation of energy; and
  • delivering resilient, efficient and inclusive energy systems.

These strategic directions entail a series of actions:

  • Scaling-up renewables – turning megawatts of renewable energy installed into gigawatts to accelerate electrification and decarbonisation, while building greater energy security and diversity.
  • Upgrading power networks, storage solutions and regional interconnections – to ensure resilient and secure energy systems that successfully integrate intermittent renewables.
  • Promoting zero-carbon fuels – investing in innovative technologies and harnessing renewables to decarbonise other sectors especially those that are hard to abate.
  • Phasing out unabated fossil fuels – the Bank will actively support the transition away from fossil fuels and limit its investments in new fossil-fuel projects to increasingly rare instances.
  • Promoting well-functioning markets and resilient assets – to ensure efficient, secure energy systems adapted to impacts of climate change.
  • Enhancing energy efficiency and productivity – allowing for more efficient and cost-effective decarbonisation and more efficient use of energy, resources and materials.
  • Delivering an inclusive and just energy transition – to ensure that the transition leaves no one behind.

“The energy sector lies at the heart of the green transition; it is where the greatest challenges lie, but also extraordinary opportunities to move to a world of abundant, reliable, low-cost and sustainable energy,” EBRD noted. The new strategy “creates a platform for the EBRD to support the economies in which the Bank operates in meeting those challenges and capitalising on opportunities in 2024-28”. It adds that the strategy “is tailored to specific aspects of country strategies”.

The countries targeted by EBRD are divided into five regions plus Turkiye and Greece:

  • Central Europe & Balkan states – Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary Latvia, Lithuania, Poland Slovakia, Slovenia.
  • Southeastern Europe – Albania, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia.
  • Eastern Europe & the Caucasus – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine. 
  • Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.
  • Southern & Eastern Mediterranean – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia.

The EBRD suspended Russia’s and Belarus’s membership in 2022.

Two tables in Annex O of the report (context indicators) lists CO2 emissions (2020), share of coal in electricity production (2017 & 2020), share of wind and solar (2017 & 2020) and share of renewables (2017 & 2020). However, this hardly gives a realistic indication of the energy context when many of these countries also have significant and growing nuclear power programmes, which are not acknowledged at all.

Czech Republic is listed as having a 13% share of renewables in 2020. That year, according to the World Nuclear Association, 37.3% of its electricity came from nuclear plants. It also plans to construct additional units at both its Dukovany and Temelin NPPs.

Hungary had a 9% share of renewables in 2020 along with a 48% share from nuclear. It is also constructing two new units at its Paks NPP.

Poland had a 11% share of renewables in 2020 and no nuclear. But it now has an ambitious nuclear construction programme in place involving both large-scale plants and small modular reactors (SMRs). 

Slovakia had a 24% share of renewables in 2020 along with a 53% nuclear share, with once new nuclear unit since starting up and other nearing commissioning. 

Slovenia had a 33% renewables share in 2020 with 37.8% of its electricity coming from its single nuclear unit. It is know planning to construct a second unit. 

Bulgaria had a 19% renewables share in 2020, while 40.8% of its electricity came from nuclear. It plans to construct one or two additional units at its Kozloduy NPP.

Romania’s renewables share is listed as 44% for 2020. That year it produced 19.9% of its electricity from its Cernavoda NPP, where it is now preparing to construct two new units.

Armenia produced 24% of its electricity from renewables and 34 % from its ageing single unit NPP which it is planning to replace with one of larger capacity. 

Ukraine had a 2% renewables share in 2020 and a 55% nuclear share. While one of its NPPs has now been annexed by Russia, it is planning to build a new unit at another of its plants. 

Kazkahstan and Uzbekistan had renewables shares of 11% and 8% respectively in 2020 and no nuclear generation. However, both countries are now planning the construction of new large-scale NPPs. 

Egypt’s nuclear share in 2020 was 12% with no nuclear generation. However a large four-unit NPP is now under construction at El-Dabaa, which will supply around half of its electricity needs.

Turkiye is listed as producing 42% of its electricity from renewables in 2020. However, like Egypt, it is currently constructing a large four-unit NPP. It is also planning at least two more. 

By leaving nuclear out of its calculations, EBRD provides an unrealistic and distorted view of the energy situation in the countries where it operates, which does not provide a useful basis for future planning. It limits any funding to safety, radwaste and decommissioning at a time when many of these countries are embarking on nuclear newbuild or expansion programmes.

Image: EBRD's headquarters in Canary Wharf