Volodymyr Omelchenko

Experts on energy programs: ahead of the game
Today, there are difficult times for Ukraine's energy sector. In your opinion, what role may and should influential think thank play in the process of reforming the energy sector?

I think that to be interesting for civil society and their clients, non-governmental organizations or think tanks should, first of all, be beyond the political arena, i.e., not to take sides with anybody. Otherwise, it is impossible to ensure the integrity of research in different spheres of the country's life, which means, in a while, a loss of trust and a reduced demand to services of such a think tank. Another prerequisite for the success of such organizations is the professionalism of its expert groups.
The third characteristics is an ability to feel the societal 'pulse,' to react timely to new complex challenges of the modern world and to impact the formation of the sociopolitical life of the country.

Please tell us about the activity of the Razumkov Center in the area of energy research

The energy programs of the Razumkov Center always try to research issues important for society and find answers to current challenges, first of all, based on the interests of the energy services consumers and ensuring the energy security of the state. At the same time, the energy program experts try to be ahead of the game.
In particular, there were the energy programs experts who, for the first time in Ukraine, conducted studies regarding the suitability of pegging the natural gas price to the reference basket of oil products, about the perspectives of the development of the world market of the liquefied natural gas in the context of Ukraine's interests, about complex threats to the energy security on the part of Russia, about building upon the experience of the national energy regulators in the countries.
Another significant achievement is the preparation, under the expert guidance of the energy programs, of the current Energy Strategy of Ukraine until 2035 (approved by the Decree of the Government in 2017). It takes into account the major global trend of the "energy transition" from fossil fuels to RES. However, unfortunately, the turbulent political situation in Ukraine and a low level of competence in central government bodies prevented, as of now, the introduction of the necessary measures to implement the Strategy.

Many energy issues are currently related to the environmental ones because the RES discourse in many respects appeals to climate change. Is there any interaction between the Center's energy experts and environmental experts? In what way?

The Razumkov Center gives consideration to the so-called European Green Deal strategy and plans to participate in the development of the National Integral Plan on the Energy Sector and Climate Change till 2030 that will address problems of decarbonization, energy efficiency, energy safety, electrical mobilization, the forecast for greenhouse gas reduction. In its work, the Razumkov Center always tries to interact with established specialist EU international organizations on the project basis and through mutually beneficial experience exchange, and utilize best international and Ukrainian practice in RES and prevention of climate change.

How do you see the optimal way of the development of the energy market in Ukraine?

This is a fundamental question. Briefly speaking, Ukraine's energy policy should rest upon five pillars: formation of competitive, integrated with EU markets that benefit consumers, diversification of energy supply, energy saving and energy efficiency, development of RES based on the economic capacity of consumers, and technological capabilities of the energy system.

Is the government responsive to the expert community? To what extent does it use the research, in particular, produced by the Razumkov Center?

Unfortunately, authorities in Ukraine are used to living in their own world, isolated from the society's needs. As a rule, concentrating on short-term goals and the creation of an attractive media image shortly before the coming elections. Today, Ukraine does not have the state machinery that would be able to implement recommendations of the leading Ukrainian and international think tanks. Moreover, today's central government bodies, in most cases, are not able to formulate the statement of the problem correctly. Therefore, in such conditions, it is quite difficult for non-governmental organizations to work with public institutions, and effective collaboration takes place only occasionally. Usually, central government bodies only perform lobbying functions for the big Ukrainian and international money rather than work for citizens, who actually hired them paying taxes for this purpose. That is why the state authorities demonstrate higher demand for PR campaigns to railroad the sought-for decisions to the benefit of business groups and corrupt officials rather than for implementing projects essential to society.

Should the Ukrainian business support the expert environment, and how can the interaction between the business and think tanks be built?

Today, the Ukrainian market of think tank services is many times smaller than in the EU countries. The role of the non-governmental sector is underestimated in Ukraine. However, in the EU and North American countries, it plays, in particular, an essential function of a hub for finding a balance of interests among the country, business, and citizens. This helps to harmonize relations between different social groups in the society which produces preconditions for the stabilization of the political and economic situation and the formation of a favorable investment climate.