Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The ultimate objective for Ukraine is not to reduce its dependency on Russia for energy, but to become energy independent, the country's prime minister said.
Ukraine serves as an energy bridge for Europe, hosting the pipelines that carry about 20 percent of the Russian natural gas headed west. Geopolitical risks to energy security escalated as Kiev moved closer to the European Union in recent years.
Vice Prime Minister Volodymyr Kistion this summer said a policy strategy through 2035 aims to cut energy consumption by half and boost both conventional and alternative sources of energy. He stressed, however, that the strategy is only a signpost.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said the country has not taken on Russian gas in more than a year, crediting the diversification with breaking the Kremlin's grip over the former Soviet republic.
"That's true that we import gas from abroad," he said in a statement. "But our aim is not to buy, but to become an energy independent state, and then to start exporting energy resources."
Ukraine by 2035 aims to get about half of its electricity needs met by nuclear power, 24 percent from hydropower and the rest for thermal-electric power stations. Eurocoal, an association that represents coal producers in the European region, said Ukraine has enough of its own coal to last for more than a century. Most of the coal reserves in Ukraine are found in Donetsk, an industrial city at the heart of the Ukrainian separatist movement.
Ukraine is among the Eastern European countries thought to be rich in shale natural gas reserves. Royal Dutch Shell at one point had a contract to explore what the Ukrainian government said was an area said to contain about 4 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas.
Ukrainian energy security issues pre-date the outbreak of conflict that reached its zenith when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison a few years before the conflict on charges she abused authority when she helped broker a 2009 natural gas deal with Russia's Gazprom. She later faced a $2.4 million suit for mismanaging her country's United Energy Systems in the 1990s.