Europe moves towards renewables in its divorce from Russian gas
The European Union is currently pumping about US$118 million a day into Russia due to its dependence on natural gas. The new REPowerEU plan is a chance to cut that figure down fast, and accelerate the transition to green energy in the process.
Europe's dependence on Russian fossil fuels is a huge vulnerability in times of international crisis. Currently, Russia supplies about 45 percent of EU gas imports, 25 percent of EU oil imports and 45 percent of coal imports, and "skyrocketing" energy prices have begun to hit consumers as a result of the current conflict in Ukraine.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen made her thoughts clear: "We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas. We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us. We need to act now to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, diversify our gas supply for next winter and accelerate the clean energy transition. The quicker we switch to renewables and hydrogen, combined with more energy efficiency, the quicker we will be truly independent and master our energy system."
As a result, the Commission has outlined a plan that could slash Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of the year, and completely cut off fossil fuel supply from Russia "well before 2030," while pouring money into renewable energy to fast-track the transition to zero emissions.
"It is time we tackle our vulnerabilities and rapidly become more independent in our energy choices," said Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans. "Let's dash into renewable energy at lightning speed. Renewables are a cheap, clean, and potentially endless source of energy and instead of funding the fossil fuel industry elsewhere, they create jobs here."
The European Commission initially plans to diversify its natural gas imports, leaning more heavily on non-Russian suppliers. It'll also move to increase production and imports of biomethane and "renewable hydrogen." There will also be a focus on measures to reduce energy use in residential, commercial and industrial buildings through efficiency tweaks.
In order to buffer against price volatility next winter, the Commission is also proposing that EU gas storage reserves need to be filled beyond 90 percent by October 2022.
But the more lasting change could come in the form of accelerated transitions to clean energy, including more solar and wind power, and programs to replace up to 10 million gas-fired heating systems with efficient, electric heat pumps. There are certainly vast opportunities here for green hydrogen producers too.
We'll know over the coming months how effectively the rubber hits the road on these proposals, but there's a chance that Putin's brutal march to war could end up accelerating Europe's green transition, making him somewhat of a modern Genghis Khan, eco-warrior.
Source: European Commission