The European Union introduced new plans in the present day to swiftly shrink its reliance on Russian gas and speed up its transition to clear vitality. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and continued threats to additional squeeze Europe’s gas and oil provides have made clear vitality an much more vital precedence.
“It is time we tackle our vulnerabilities and rapidly become more independent in our energy choices. Let’s dash into renewable energy at lightning speed,” European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans stated in a March eighth statement.
Over the subsequent yr, the European Commission says it will probably drastically minimize its gas use by altering the way it heats properties and powers buildings. Russian gas accounted for nearly half of the bloc’s gas provide final yr. That’ll shrink down to zero “well before” the tip of the last decade, if the European Commission follows by way of on objectives set out in the present day.
Eventually phasing out gas will set off makeovers in properties, buildings, and the facility sector. Those modifications have been already on the best way, thanks to Europe’s plans to deal with local weather change. Things simply have to occur a lot quicker now.
“A lot of the blockers for further reduction in fossil fuel dependence will be much easier to remove,” Charles Moore, European programme lead at vitality assume tank Ember, advised The Verge in an interview upfront of the European Commission’s new bulletins. “There’s nothing like a really terrifying crisis to unwind that inertia.”
A painful gas shortage had already pushed heating and vitality costs up throughout the continent over the previous yr. Much of that was triggered by a steep rise in gas demand as economies emerged from pandemic-induced shutdowns, though different factors have contributed to the disaster. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hostility has made issues much more risky. Just in the present day, Russian officers threatened to shut down a serious pipeline that brings gas from Russia to Germany in response to heightened sanctions from the West.
“We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas. We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated in a statement in the present day.
The European Commission’s new plan consists of rushing up allowing for renewable vitality tasks. It additionally needs to ramp up deployment of rooftop photo voltaic panels this yr. To energy heavy trade, it needs to exchange Russian gas with hydrogen gasoline made with renewable vitality. It envisions a “Hydrogen Accelerator” to encourage extra storage, port, and transport infrastructure for the gasoline. The European Commission additionally needs to double the bloc’s manufacturing of biomethane made out of waste by 2030.
Another key pillar of the EU’s plan is boosting vitality effectivity. Renovating properties and buildings in order that they use much less vitality is among the best issues Europe can do to cut back its gas consumption. And whereas winter is winding down, Europe wants to begin preparing for the subsequent one — ostensibly with out counting on as a lot Russian gas for heating. Replacing gas heating with extra environment friendly electrical warmth pumps is one other prime precedence between now and subsequent winter, consultants inform The Verge. The European Commission now plans to get 10 million warmth pumps out to residents over the subsequent 5 years.
While the European Union made plans to wean itself off its dependency on fossil fuels from Russia within the long-term, the US in the present day imposed a direct ban on Russian vitality imports. As the world’s main oil and gas producer, the US is way much less reliant on Russian gasoline.
“We can take this step when others cannot,” US President Joe Biden said at a press convention in the present day. “But we’re working closely with Europe and our partners to develop a long term strategy to reduce their dependence on Russian energy as well.”
The US has already boosted its exports of liquified pure gas to Europe in latest months. And the EU in the present day stated that, for now, it’ll rely extra on imports from the US and locations outdoors of Russia to replenish dwindling gas shops. The fee needs gas storage stuffed to 90 p.c of capability by October in preparation for winter heating demand.
But there are issues that turning to new locations for gas might lengthen Europe’s reliance on the fossil gasoline. Germany, for instance, lately determined to construct new terminals to import liquified pure gas.
When it comes to the facility sector, gas-fired energy vegetation at present fill in gaps in Europe’s rising wind and photo voltaic vitality capability. Renewables are more and more low-cost and plentiful, however prospects want a supply of energy when winds calm and sunshine fades. Historically, fossil fuels and nuclear energy vegetation have made up for that intermittency whereas utility-scale batteries and different essential types of vitality storage are nonetheless underneath growth. But with Russian gas off the desk, Europe faces two controversial choices because it builds out extra renewable vitality: nuclear and coal.
The debate over what position nuclear vitality will play on this planet’s clear vitality transition was already heating up earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine. It’s much more difficult now. Last week, the International Energy Agency proposed maximizing energy era from nuclear energy vegetation as a part of a 10-point plan for slashing Europe’s gas imports from Russia. Belgian and German officers have equally mulled over extending their international locations’ nuclear packages over the previous week.
But Germany did an about-face once more in the present day, with officers taking pictures down the potential of preserving the nation’s few remaining energy vegetation open past their beforehand deliberate shutdowns this yr. Germany had deliberate to retire them over issues about security and radioactive waste. Russia’s obvious assault on Ukraine’s largest nuclear energy plant final week raised fears of radioactive supplies being launched.
In the absence of nuclear energy and gas, extra polluting coal-fired vegetation might discover a lifeline. Power era from coal within the EU has dropped in half since 2015. Cheap renewables and gas drove that pattern, however hovering gas costs now make coal extra engaging once more.
“There’s definitely a risk of higher emissions in the short-term,” Moore says. But he nonetheless sees Europe’s future in clear vitality.
Whatever occurs subsequent, Europe is about to bear massive modifications. “In the course of weeks and days, European history has been changed,” Timmermans stated in a statement yesterday on the warfare in Ukraine’s influence on vitality and environmental coverage. “Europe will never be the way it was before.”