While the April cold snap in Western Europe led to temperatures dropping almost 30 degrees Fahrenheit below normal, public campaigns to wean the European Union from dependence on Russian energy urged citizens to lower thermostats, wear “pullovers against Putin” and “freeze for Ukraine”. ».
Margrethe Westager, vice-president of the European Commission, also called on EU citizens to take a shower. “If you turn off the water, say ‘Take it, Putin!'” She said last week, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Similar sentiments have reverberated across Europe since Putin gave the green signal to the military invasion of Ukraine in late February, and they have only intensified as evidence of Russia’s atrocities against civilians continues to emerge.
“Buying Russian oil and gas is a financing of war crimes,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said this week when Lithuania, along with Latvia and Estonia, announced it was suspending all energy imports from Russia.
However, changing the course is not easy, given that the 27 EU countries spend about $ 300 million a day on Russian energy.
The rapid attitude to the use of Russian resources, which earlier this year was seen simply as a given in the EU’s energy equation, is forcing the EU bloc to try to voluntarily cut fossil fuel purchases in Russia by two-thirds. branches of Russia.
Due to the prospect of future embargoes, Putin’s whims or high demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG), the potential gas shortage in Europe is now considered a crisis. This has prompted calls to accelerate the deployment of solar and wind energy, which are key to the European Green Agreement, the world’s most ambitious proposed transition to renewable energy, which aims to maintain a carbon-neutral EU by 2050. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, joined the conversation during a visit to Berlin this week, writing on Monday that “Spain needs to build a massive solar panel. It can feed the whole of Europe. “
In response, Pedro Sanchez, the Prime Minister of Spain, where renewable energy provides 45% of electricity, invited the American billionaire to visit by tweeting“In Spain, we welcome investors.”
Of course, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is accelerating the movement towards green energy. “Let’s rush to renewable energy at lightning speed,” said Frans Zimmermans, executive vice president of the European Green Treaty. “Putin’s war in Ukraine demonstrates the need to accelerate the transition to clean energy.”
Renewed enthusiasm for solar and wind energy, which already supplies more than 38% of the EU’s electricity, according to London’s Ember think tank, will not be enough to fill the potential gap caused by the outflow of Russian gas it normally supplies. 40% of natural gas in the EU. To make up for the shortfall, some countries are looking to extend the life of coal-fired power plants, which is in stark contrast to the Green Treaty’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.
“We will see widespread use of coal-fired power plants, and in the short term we will not achieve our climate goals in the electricity sector, which is not very much,” said Professor Johan Liliestam, head of energy transitions and public policy group at IASS in Potsdam, Germany. News. However, short-term use of coal can be offset by emissions trading schemes that limit emissions, he added. So while the plant’s short-term carbon increase is “not pretty,” he said, “it’s not a disaster either.”
The EU’s frantic fight for liquefied natural gas worries Brussels’ Rafael Hanoto, senior political adviser on gas policy at the E3G energy think tank. “It’s certainly nice to hear the European Commission say that the quickest, easiest and most affordable way to reduce fossil fuel consumption is to speed up the Green Deal,” he told Yahoo News, increasing solar, wind, even biogas and green hydrogen faster. “But the other side of the coin is the European Commission, and member states say we need a lot of LNG.” The EU, he noted, is figuring out “how to reduce our dependence on Russian gas, but not on gas at all. This means that we are opening new dependencies on fossil fuels – potentially from the United States or Qatar. “
In the short term, more expensive LNG is the easiest replacement for Russian gas. “But LNG does not bring anything good and new,” said Anoto. “It’s almost a trap to invest in.” He still fears building expensive new infrastructure for LNG, which cools to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit for easy transportation and requires special vessels, ports and terminals to “regasify” the liquid to its original state. Some EU countries, including Germany, do not have liquefied gas ports and now plan to build them quickly.
The abandoned idea of a gas pipeline to France from Spain, which has the largest number of LNG ports in Europe, is back on the table, Anoto said. There is also talk of upgrading existing pipelines commonly used to pump gas from Germany to France so that they can reverse flows from France to Germany. The EU is also considering purchasing its own vessels to transport condensed gas.
This decision threatens that after a billion-dollar investment in LNG infrastructure, there will be a tendency to “close the economy”, cultivating dependence on natural gas much longer than necessary, or leaving many very expensive “beaten assets”.
“If we don’t have Russian gas tomorrow, we will need LNG,” Anoto said. “It can bring relief in the very short term. But we have a question [how LNG affects] A green deal, and a more interesting question, what should we do in the medium term. ”
Entitled “The EU can halt Russian gas imports by 2025”, a report released in March by E3G and energy think tanks Ember, Bellona Europa and RAP argues that by “accelerating the deployment of renewable electricity” [from wind and solar]energy efficiency and electrification ”, Europe could give up the Russian energy habit much faster than expected without new gas infrastructure or long-term use of coal-fired power plants.
“Over the horizon of three to five years, clean energy solutions can provide a cheaper price and on a more affordable long-term basis than any other strategy,” Anoto said in the report.
“This whole episode quickly showed that gas is a real vulnerability,” said Torfin Steinfort, an energy analyst at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, in Yahoo News. “In the long run, it has taught us that fossil fuels are a vulnerability because you depend on who you import them from.” The war in Ukraine, he added, also illustrates security issues in nuclear energy. “Nuclear power plants are so centralized that they can be captured by your enemy,” as in the case of Chernobyl and Enerradar, Europe’s largest nuclear facility, which caught fire last month after Russian shelling. “The distributed network of renewable energy sources,” he said, “is harder to reach.”
However, both France and Britain are unveiling plans to strengthen their nuclear fleets. Prime Minister Boris Johnson boasted that there could be seven new plants in the UK by 2050.
The abrupt shutdown of Russian energy, which has sparked a frantic search for substitutes, has a good side, said Yahoo News Roland Freudenstein, vice president of the GLOBSEC think tank in Brussels. “First of all, we will have to cut private energy consumption, and that is something [environmentalists] preached for decades, ”he said. “In the long run, the crisis is good news for the Green Deal, because it means we will have to move more intensively and faster to renewable energy sources than we even planned. In the short term, this is bad because we will probably have to use more fossil energy than we expected and planned. ”
“The climate crisis and the gas crisis have the same long-term solutions,” Liliest said. we are building a new system – and this is a problem I can foresee. “In addition, he said, Europe needs to insulate homes, install heat pumps and repair its transport system. , we need windmills. We need more photovoltaics, we need batteries. We need European cooperation in the electricity market. It’s all a solution to both crises. “