The Green Brief: call a crisis by its name
Welcome to the EURACTIV Green Brief. Here you will find the latest energy and environment news from all over Europe. You can subscribe to the weekly newsletter by clicking here.
As days and weeks pass, countries find themselves cut off from Russian gas supplies as they refuse to obey the Kremlin’s insidious policy of “rubles for gas”. Even those who obey see their deliveries dwindle.
Currently, Gazprom has stopped supplying Bulgaria, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland. Austria, Germany, Italy and Slovakia have all reported reduced gas flows in recent days.
Yet European politicians refuse to call the gas crisis by name.
In a context of energy shortages unprecedented since the oil shock of the 1970s, the reluctance of EU governments to call things by their proper name evokes the image of the comic strip ‘This is Fine’, in which a dog sits at a table and happily sips his tea as the room around him is on fire.
Seeing this, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden issued early warnings, in line with the 2017 EU Gas Supply Security Regulation (SoS Regulation).
They add to the cacophony of early warnings sounded across Europe, which began with Italy on February 27.
“We saved ourselves the trouble of having a fire brigade because we thought the risk of fire was negligible”said Siegfried Russwurm, president of the German industry association BDI. “Now everything is on fire”he said on Tuesday (June 21).
European Union leaders have done all they can to keep Russian gas molecules flowing, with some utilities even adopting the bizarre ruble payment system ordered by the Kremlin.
But that didn’t stop Gazprom from sticking to its doctrine. “our product, our rules” and cut off supplies.
Want to know how to boil a frog? If you throw it directly into boiling water, it will jump. But if the water is slowly brought to the boil, the frog notices it too late and dies from the boil.
Marked by the Russian gas cuts at the end of the 2000s, the EU sought to put in place instruments for the next time. The aptly named EU SoS regulation has created a three-tiered approach: 1) early warning, 2) alert and 3) emergency.
The first level involves only the companies and the natural gas industry concerned. The alert level involves Member States at national or regional level in a situation where the market is still able to cope. The emergency level involves the EU and is triggered once all market-based measures have been implemented.
” Do not mistake yourself “, said Robert Habeck, German Vice-Chancellor. With storage levels as low as they are, the gas supply situation could become ” worse “ than the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said on Tuesday (June 21).
However, Germany is still reluctant to trigger the second level of alert, which Italy has been considering for several days.
Paradoxically, the reason for Germany’s reluctance may lie in its recently revised energy security law. Once the “alert level” triggered, the law allows energy companies to raise gas prices in order to avoid the bankruptcy of operators engaged in long-term contracts.
With such emergency rules in place, Europe could soon feel like a frog in a boiling pot.
–Nikolaus J. Kurmayer
Europe can go fossil fuel free by 2035 at no extra cost, study finds. A new report released Wednesday (22 May) by energy think tank Ember shows how Europe could transition away from fossil fuels and quadruple the growth of its wind and solar capacity at no extra cost.
The “New Generation” study aims to find the cheapest solutions by 2050 that are compatible with the Paris climate objectives and presents a detailed plan of how clean energy can be produced across Europe by 2035.
According to the study, Europe could adopt a more ambitious electrification strategy based on renewable energies, with an additional initial investment of 300 to 750 billion euros. However, it would also save Europe around €1 trillion by 2035, not including climate, health and energy security benefits.
“Scaling up clean energy is a win-win-win solution”said Dr. Chris Rosslowe, principal energy analyst at Ember. “It will save money, put Europe on track with its climate commitments and reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels. Europe should invest now for a huge return on investment by 2035.” Read the full report here.
(Valentina Romano | EURACTIV.com)
Western Balkan coal pollution exceeds legal limits, report says. Coal factories in the Western Balkans broke air pollution laws under the Energy Community Treaty for the fourth consecutive year, emitting five times more sulfur dioxide and 1.8 times more more dust than is allowed, according to a new report.
Last year, dust emissions from coal-fired power plants increased beyond legal limits in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia, despite new regulations introduced in 2018, according to the Comply report. or Close”, published on Tuesday 21 June by CEE Bankwatch Network.
“Western Balkan governments are responding to the energy crisis by opening new coal mines and delaying the closure of power plants, but with such old power plants, the end of coal is closer than they think”observed Ioana Ciuta, energy coordinator at CEE Bankwatch Network.
The energy crisis that hit the region at the end of 2021 has further diverted attention from pollution problems.
CEE Bankwatch Network calls on EU politicians to act: “The European Commission must redouble its efforts to introduce dissuasive sanctions in the Energy Community Treaty if it wants Western Balkan governments to take European legislation and human health seriously”, said Pippa Gallop, energy advisor. Read the full report here.
(Valentina Romano | EURACTIV.com)
JUNE 28. Media partnership — GRIDTECH 2022. Bringing together a wide range of European decision-makers and actors in the energy sector, the GRIDTech 2022 conference will be an opportunity to assess possible strategies and measures to support the main political actions of the European Union. Join MEP Jerzy Buzek, Mechthild Wörsdörfer from the European Commission’s Department of Energy, and many more to discuss. Program and registration here. (Organized by Eurogas and GIE, technical partnership of the european network of transmission system operators for gas/ENTSO for gasin partnership with EURACTIV).
JUNE 30TH. Gas supply security — what role for gas infrastructure? Take part in this hybrid conference organized by EURACTIV during which stakeholders will discuss policy tools that can help strengthen the security of supply of the European Union. The topics that will be discussed are: how to secure the gas supply in the most efficient and sustainable way possible, what is the role of gas infrastructures, and what are the solutions for the transport and storage of renewable energies and fuels made of low carbon molecules over long distances. Program and registration here. (Supported by Gas Infrastructure Europe).
JULY 12. Media partnership — Fit for 55: empowering energy consumers for a more sustainable and resilient Europe. The debate will focus on policies essential that combine security of supply and an ambitious level of decarbonisation while putting energy end users at the centre: what tools do consumers have today to make changes in habits a reality; how non-residential buildings and industry could systematize best practices, go up the value chain and access new services and new data? Join EU Commissioner Paula pinhoHead of Unit at DG Energy, MEP Ciaran Cufferapporteur for the review of the directive on the energy performance of buildings, and many others. Program and registration here. (Organized by Schneider-Electricin partnership with EURACTIV).
JUNE 22. Nature protection package:
- Sustainable use of pesticides — revision of EU rules.
- Biodiversity protection: nature restoration objectives.
JUNE 28. Environment Council.
JUNE 29. 2022 Strategic Foresight Report.
JULY THE 5TH. New design requirements and consumer rights for electronics (TBC).
JULY 20. Development of post-Euro 6/VI emission standards for cars, vans, trucks and buses.
OCTOBER-DECEMBER (to be confirmed). Circular economy package 2:
- Policy framework for biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics.
- Revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive to strengthen essential packaging requirements and establish measures and targets for the prevention of packaging waste at EU level.
- Revision of the directive on the treatment of urban waste water.
- Proposed regulation on the substantiation of environmental claims using the product or organization environmental footprint method.