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Europe Braces for a Winter Without Russian Gas

by Ronaldo Derric
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A fleet of tankers carrying liquefied natural gas has been parked in a sea traffic jam off the coast of Spain for the past few days, waiting to offload a valuable cargo to the European power grid. In Finland, where hot and humid sauna baths are a national pastime, the government is urging family and friends to take saunas together to save energy.

Both efforts represent steps Europe is taking to boost energy supplies and save fuel ahead of the Russian gas-free winter.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s tactic of weaponizing energy against countries that support Ukraine has led to an astonishing change in the way Europe generates and stores electricity. nations are united Purchasing, borrowing and building additional power sources while promoting major conservation programs reminiscent of the response to the oil crisis of the 1970s.

Emergency gas supplies are well stocked in underground storage facilities across the continent. Germany’s slated nuclear power plants will continue to operate. From France to Sweden, thermostats are down to 19 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit). In Slovakia, he calls on people to limit their showers to two minutes.

As November approaches, some analysts are hopeful that Europe will enter the spring with no energy rationing or blackouts, accelerating energy self-sufficiency.

Simone Tagliapietra, senior fellow at Brussels-based think tank Bruegel, said the measures taken by European countries were “surprising and likely to change the energy landscape.” “Europe will succeed in a complete decoupling from Russia that was previously considered impossible.”

Still, the pivot will come at a high cost and could undermine Europe’s energy security in the coming months.

Europe is adapting to significant cuts in Russian gas exports, but Russia now supplies less than 10% of Europe’s natural gas, down from 45% of pre-war European supplies. — Gas prices remain historically high, forcing the closure of energy-intensive businesses, including steel, chemical and glass production. Companies are furloughing workers. Governments are issuing more debt to protect households and businesses from suffering. The energy crisis has heightened expectations that Europe will plunge into recession next year.

Ships laden with gas are waiting off the coast of Spain because Europe has so much gas in stock that it has run out of room to store the incoming fuel. Europe still receives a small amount of natural gas (around 7%) from Russia through a pipeline under Ukraine. If that flow is interrupted, some countries will be in trouble.

Also, some Europeans may decide not to make personal sacrifices for Ukraine amid soaring household utility bills. Street demonstrations protesting the rising cost of living have broken out in places such as Paris and Prague, and the united front in Europe to impose sanctions on Russia is shaken.

The work being done to boost energy supplies, including securing liquefied natural gas contracts, extending nuclear reactors and restarting coal-fired power plants, is a major step towards sustaining Europe’s electricity grid.

The effort represents a rapid turnaround from Russia, with deals such as building pipelines, drilling for gas on European soil and building platforms to receive shipments of natural gas from far-flung destinations. is included. While renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels are increasing their share in Europe, natural gas still powers most homes and businesses, so a steady current supply is essential. .

Coordinated Efforts Since Spring Have Helped European Countries bury most of their gas reserves That’s enough to power about three months, despite Russia’s dwindling electricity supply. Unseasonably warm weather in Europe is delaying the need for early heating, so stocks may last longer than expected.

Consulting group Rystad Energy says that while natural gas prices have fallen to their lowest level since June, Europe has enough gas stored to survive this winter unless it gets very cold. is calculated as

“The risk of blackouts and major gas shortages is a very distant prospect at the moment,” added Tagliapietra.

But other problems can occur. The International Energy Agency says Europe will face a harsher winter next year as natural gas inventories are depleted and new supplies to replace Russian gas are slow to come online, including increased shipments from the United States and Qatar. said they could face it. Energy Outlook released last week.

European activity is accelerating the global transition to cleaner technologies by adopting hydrogen fuels, electric vehicles, heat pumps and other green energy in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. It appears to be, the IEA added.

In the short term, however, countries will burn more fossil fuels to meet natural gas shortages.

Countries such as Denmark, the UK and Hungary are also drilling more natural gas in their own backyards despite opposition from environmental groups. The Netherlands is delaying the closure of its huge gas field in Groningen. The gas field was due to be sealed due to an earthquake caused by extraction of the fuel.

Eleven countries, including Germany, Finland and Estonia, are currently building or expanding a total of 18 offshore terminals to process liquid gas shipped from other countries.other projects of Latvia When Lithuania Under consideration.

Nuclear Power Gains New Support in countries that have previously decided to abandon it, including Germany BelgiumFinland plans to extend the life of one nuclear reactor, while Poland and Romania plan to build new nuclear power plants.

Public awareness campaigns are being rolled out across Europe to encourage homes and businesses to save energy, the second phase of a significant shift away from Russia’s dependence on gas.plan based on European Commission blueprintis voluntary and relies on buy-ins from individuals and businesses whose utility bills may be subsidized by the government.

Energy use declined in some countries in September, but it is difficult to know for sure whether this was due to mild weather, high prices, or voluntary conservation efforts inspired by a sense of civic duty. It Is difficult. But there are signs that businesses, organizations, and the general public are responding. For example, the Lund parish in Sweden said it plans to partially or fully close 150 of its 540 churches this winter to conserve energy.

Germany and France have issued comprehensive guidance including turning down heating in all homes, businesses and public buildings, using appliances during off-peak hours and unplugging electronics when not in use. Did.

Other countries are even more encyclopedic. Denmark We want our homes to avoid dryers and use clotheslines. Slovakia We are encouraging citizens to use microwaves instead of stoves and brush their teeth with a glass of water.

The Finnish government has introduced a ‘lower degree’ campaign to help over 95% of households save energy. The campaign encourages the use of stairs over elevators and the use of bicycles and public transport to commute.

And in a country with 3 million saunas for 5.5 million people, the campaign lowered the temperature from 212 degrees to 185 degrees, encouraging people to take fewer, shorter, cooler hot baths. Instead of adhering to customary nudity, enter the sauna with other people rather than alone.

Two weeks into the campaign, 723 companies, individuals and organizations signed up as ‘Campaign Partners’ to list their energy-saving technologies. website. “Short showers,” wrote one homeowner. In another announcement, it was announced that “in October he will have 18 solar panels installed on the roof.”

“In the coming winter, conserving electricity and planning electricity consumption may be the key to avoiding electricity shortages.”

Businesses are being asked to do more, and most governments are asking retailers, manufacturers, and offices to find ways to reduce their energy use by at least 10% in the coming months. Setting goals.

Energy-hungry governments are reducing heating, curbing street lighting and closing municipal swimming pools. In France, where the country operates one-third of all buildings, the government plans to reduce energy use by 2 terawatt hours. This is the amount used in medium-sized cities.

Daniel Gross, director of the European Center for Policy Studies, a European think tank, said it was unclear whether the campaign would succeed. Because the recommendations are voluntary, there may be little incentive for people to follow them, especially if the government subsidizes energy bills.

In countries like Germany, where high gas prices have started to hit consumers, “it will help consumers reduce their energy use,” he said. But in countries that fund parts of the bill, “the incentive to save energy is zero,” he said.

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