Germany was the largest buyer of Russian energy An independent research group said Thursday, during the first two months of the war in Ukraine.
A study published by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air indicates that Russia earned 63 billion euros ($66.5 billion) from fossil fuel exports Since February 24, the date on which Russian forces attacked Ukraine.
Using data on ship movements, real-time tracking of gas flows through pipelines and estimates based on historical monthly trade, the researchers estimated that Germany alone paid Russia about €9.1 billion for the delivery of fossil fuels – mostly natural gas – in the first two months of the war.
Claudia Kimfert, a senior energy expert at the German Institute for Economic Research who was not involved in the study, said the numbers are reasonable given the recent sharp increase in fossil fuel prices. Last year, she said, Germany paid around 100 billion euros in total for oil, coal and gas imports – a quarter of which went to Russia.
The German government said it could not comment on the estimates and declined to provide any numbers of its own, saying they must come from companies that buy energy supplies.
Germany has faced heavy criticism for its reliance on Russian fossil fuels despite warnings from allies that this could jeopardize its own and European security. Then-Chancellor Angela Merkel last year opposed US efforts to block a Russian gas pipeline to Germany, a decision strongly supported by her successor, Olaf Schulz, whose Social Democratic Party has long called for energy cooperation with Russia.
The pipeline was only frozen by the new, center-left Schulz government shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It has since scrambled to find alternative energy supplies, particularly Russian natural gas, which now accounts for 35% of Germany’s total imports.
Kimfert said the recent pledge by the German government to produce electricity only from renewable sources by 2035 is welcome.
“But as long as Germany continues to buy fossil fuels, whether from Russia or other authoritarian regimes, it undermines its credibility and energy security,” she said.
The Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, based in Finland and funded through grants and research contracts, said that the second largest importer of Russian fossil fuels in the two months since the outbreak of the war is Italy (6.9 billion euros), followed by China (6.7 billion euros).
South Korea, Japan, India, and the United States also bought Russian energy after the war began, albeit much less than the European Union. The ECE report concluded that the 27-nation bloc accounted for 71% of Russia’s total income from oil, gas and coal, with a value of nearly €44 billion.
Year-on-year comparisons were difficult, said Lauri Myllyvirta, the group’s chief analyst, but he estimated that Russia’s exports to Europe in the same period in 2021 amounted to 18 billion euros.
“So 44 billion euros (…) is double last year,” he said. “The main driver is that market prices for gas have gone up from around €10 per megawatt-hour a year ago to well over 100.”