Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for maintaining “the balance of interests” between the hydrocarbon and renewables sectors, as the country’s government approved a plan of first steps in fostering hydrogen production in the next three years.

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Speaking in a video address to the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow on Thursday, Putin said that “compromises have to be sought between environmental protection and economic development”.

“If we continue to describe the oil and gas sector as being bad because it pollutes everything, then investments will dry up and energy prices will hit the sky”, he added.

Those who are not experts should not “tire their tongues and politicise this issue”, Putin said.

“If the balance of interests is maintained throughout the [transition] road, then it will end in success, otherwise it will lead to destruction.”

Putin has followed other top government officials in softening his tone on renewables from a previous stance of outright rejection.

Last year, his pronouncement that wind farms kill thousands of birds and create strong vibrations that push worms out to the surface went viral over the Russian media and internet.

Road map

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin rubberstamped a roadmap of steps for fostering hydrogen production and export in the period between 2020 and 2024, originally put forward by the country’s Energy Ministry.

Speaking following the approval, Energy Minister Alexander Novak welcomed the speedy approval, saying that in the future, hydrogen is hoped to become a driver in the country’s economic development.

The road map calls for massive involvement by the Russian state in the initial period, with wide-ranging government incentives for companies that choose to invest in hydrogen production and exports.

At the same time, Novak said that authorities will not neglect the interests of Russian hydrocarbon producers and their share of deliveries to international energy markets.

Another former critic of renewables, executive board chairman of the country’s largest oil producer Rosneft and close Putin associate Igor Sechin, also changed his tune this week.

In a video address to an industry forum in Italy, Sechin said that “technological progress will increase availability of renewable power to consumers and reduce the environmental footprint from hydrocarbons”.

However, Sechin added that “renewables are still too expensive” and not many countries can engage in the costly transition.

“The hydrocarbon industry remains at the edge of innovations, and has an enormous growth potential”, he said.