Europe seems to be getting used to Russian energy quickly

While the cold in Western Europe in April has caused temperatures to fall below 30 degrees Fahrenheit below normal, public campaigns to wean the European Union from its dependence on Russian energy have urged citizens to lower their thermostats, using “shirts against Putin “and” Freeze to Ukraine. “

Margrethe Vestager, Vice-President of the European Commission, further encouraged EU citizens to take shorter showers. “When you turn on the water, say, ‘Take it, Putin!'” She said last week, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Similar sentiments have been echoing across Europe since Putin gave the green light to a military invasion of Ukraine in late February, and have only intensified as evidence of Russia’s atrocities against civilians continues to rise.

President Vladimir Putin, hands clasped at conference table, pencil and pen beside him.

President Vladimir Putin will chair a video conference on agriculture at the Novo-Ogaryovo government residence outside Moscow on April 5. (Mikhail Klimentyev / SPUTNIK / AFP via Getty Images)

“Buying Russian oil and gas is financing war crimes,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said this week as Lithuania, along with Latvia and Estonia, announced it was halting all energy imports from Russia.

However, reversing the policy is not an easy task, given that 27 EU countries spend approximately $ 300 million on Russian energy every day.

The rapid face in attitudes towards the use of Russian resources, which earlier this year was simply taken for granted in the EU’s energy balance, is causing the EU to voluntarily reduce its purchases of Russian fossil fuels by two-thirds. Unlike the United States, however, the EU has not yet imposed sanctions on Russia’s gas and oil sectors.

Whether it is due to future trade embargoes, Putin’s whims or high demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG), the potential shortage of gas in Europe is now considered a crisis. This has prompted calls for faster installation of solar and wind power plants, which are key to Europe’s green agreement, the world’s most ambitious planned transition to renewable energy, with the goal of seeing the EU carbon neutral by 2050. Tesla founder Elon Musk jumped into action the conversation when he visited Berlin this week and tweeted on Monday that “Spain should build a massive sunbeam. It could affect the whole of Europe. “

In response, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that renewable energy sources account for 45% of electricity. invited the US billionaire to visit and tweet“In Spain, we welcome investors.”

The Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, speaks in front of several uniformed guards in helmets.The Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, speaks in front of several uniformed guards in helmets.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez talks to reporters ahead of March 21 at the Elysée Presidential Palace in Paris. (Ludovic Marin / AFP via Getty Images)

Admittedly, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is accelerating the move toward green energy. “Let’s rush into renewable energy at lightning speed,” recently urged Frans Timmermans, executive director of the Green Agreement in Europe. “Putin’s war in Ukraine shows how urgent it is to speed up our transition to clean energy.

Renewed interest in solar and wind energy, which already produces over 38% of the EU’s electricity, according to London energy thinker Ember, will not be enough to make up for the potential gap caused by the shutdown of Russian gas, which normally produces 40% of EU natural gas. . To make up for the shortfall, some countries are considering extending the life of a coal-fired power plant, which is significantly at odds with the Green Treaty’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

“We will see an increase in the use of coal-fired power plants and we will miss our climate goals in the electricity sector in the short term, which is not great,” Professor Johan Lilliestam, who leads the energy exchange and IASS Public Policy Group in Potsdam, Germany, told Yahoo News. However, the short-term use of coal can be offset by emissions trading schemes that limit the amount of emissions allowed. plants are “not beautiful,” he said, “it’s not a disaster either.

A large tanker docked at an import station is connected to the shore by a series of masts erected over the lake.A large tanker docked at an import station is connected to the shore by a series of masts erected over the lake.

The Gibraltar Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) tanker is docked at the Grain LNG Import Station, operated by National Grid Plc, on the Isle of Grain near Rochester, UK, on ​​30 March. (Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Raphael Hanoteaux, based in Brussels, is a senior adviser on gas policy at the E3G energy think tank. “It is certainly good to hear the European Commission say that the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective way to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels is to speed up the Green Agreement,” he told Yahoo News, building faster solar, wind, even biogas and green hydrogen. “But the other side of the coin is the European Commission and the member states say we will need a lot of LNG. The EU, he said, is finding out “how we can reduce our dependence Russian gas, but not on gas in general. That means we’re opening up new fossil fuel dependencies – possibly with the US or Qatar.

In the short term, the more expensive LNG is the easiest substitute for Russian gas by pipeline. “But LNG does not bring anything good or new to the table,” Hanoteaux said. “It’s almost worth investing in.” He is still wary of building an expensive new infrastructure for LNG, which is cooled to minus 260 degrees F. to facilitate transportation and requires special vessels, ports and skating rinks to “Re-gas” the liquid to its original state. Some EU countries, including Germany, do not have LNG ports and are now planning to build them soon.

The abandoned idea of ​​a gas pipeline to France from Spain, which has the most LNG ports in Europe, is back on the table, Hanoteaux said. There is also talk of reusing existing pipelines that are commonly used to pump gas from Germany to France, so that they could reverse flow from France to Germany. The EU is also considering purchasing its own LNG carriers to transport the dense gas.

This solution risks that once billions of dollars have been invested in LNG infrastructure, the tendency to “lock in the economy” will take over, which either grows on natural gas for much longer than necessary or leaves a chunk of very expensive “strand” assets “.

Ships loaded with containers sail into the harbor of Rotterdam.Ships loaded with containers sail into the harbor of Rotterdam.

Ships sail into the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands in front of tanks in February this year. (Federico Gambarini / Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

“If we do not have Russian gas tomorrow, we will need LNG,” Hanoteaux said. “It can provide relief in a very short time. But the question we have is [how LNG affects] The green agreement, and the more interesting question, is 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 the energy think tanks Ember, Bellona Europa and RAP states that by “speeding up the distribution of renewable electricity [from wind and solar]energy efficiency and electrification, “Europe could kick into Russia’s energy habits much faster than expected, without new gas infrastructure or extending the use of coal-fired plants.

“Over a three- to five-year horizon, clean energy solutions can be cheaper and more affordable in the long run than any other policy,” Hanoteaux said of the report.

“This episode has quickly shown that gas is a real vulnerability,” Thorfinn Stainforth, an energy expert at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, told Yahoo News. “In the long run, it has taught us that fossil fuels are vulnerable, because you depend on who you are importing them from. The war in Ukraine, he added, also raises security concerns about nuclear energy. “Nuclear power plants are so centralized that your enemy can catch them,” as in the case of Chernobyl and Enerhodar, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which caught fire last month after being shot by Russia. “Distributing a network of renewable energy sources,” he said, “is more difficult to capture.

Nevertheless, both France and Britain are unveiling plans to strengthen their nuclear fleet. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has praised that Britain could have seven new plants by 2050.

Number of pipelines with different scales at the Enagás liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.  (Albert Gea / Reuters)Number of pipelines with different scales at the Enagás liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.  (Albert Gea / Reuters)

Enagas liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Zona Franca in Barcelona, ​​Spain, March 29 (Albert Gea / Reuters)

A sudden halt to Russian energy, which has led to a furious search for a replacement, is beneficial, Roland Freudenstein, vice president of the Brussels-based think tank GLOBSEC, told Yahoo News. “First of all, we are forced to reduce the energy consumption of the private sector, which is something [environmentalists] have been preaching for decades, “he said. “In the long run, the crisis is good news for the Green Agreement, because it means we have to switch more and faster to renewable energy than we intended to do. In the short term, it is bad because we probably need to use more mineral energy than we hoped for and intended. “

“The climate crisis and the gas crisis have the same long-term solutions,” said Lilliestam. “Namely renewable and cost-effective. But we must ensure that they are also synergistic along the way, that policies that respond to each crisis. do not stand in the way of each other when we build the new system – and that is a problem I can foresee. ”In addition, he said, Europe needs to insulate houses, install heat pumps and improve its transport system. “We need electric vehicles, we need trains, we need buses, we need cycle paths, we need windmills. We need more photovoltaics, we need batteries. We need European cooperation in the electricity market. All of these are solutions to both crises.”

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania's Foreign Minister with a beard and mustache, speaks as Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's Foreign Minister, watches.Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania's Foreign Minister with a beard and mustache, speaks as Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's Foreign Minister, watches.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuanian Foreign Minister, at the podium, with Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister, on the left at a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Vilnius, Lithuania on April 1 (Petras Malukas / AFP via Getty Images)


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