Russia’s gas crunch: a pivotal moment for Europe

Russia is tightening its gas crunch on Europe. Moscow has cut capacity by 60% on its main pipeline to Germany since last week, claiming EU sanctions have caused maintenance problems – but failing to increase supply through other pipelines.Many capitals think the Kremlin is using energy pressure Its troops wage a war of attrition in Ukraine. Gas prices in Europe have soared by 50% over the past week, and a shortage of gas makes it difficult to replenish storage before winter. Ten EU countries have declared early warnings of gas emergencies.IEA says the continent should be ready for cut off completely Russian gas exports this winter.

In addition to preparing to save energy, countries including Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are restarting mothballed coal-fired power stations or raising their output limits — potentially slowing the transition to green energy. Switching to coal is to some extent inevitable. The government’s priority is to keep lights on, hospitals open and factories running.

Failure to do so will bring pain and recessionary shocks to millions. This could undermine popular support in Europe for climate efforts and Ukraine’s defense against climate change. Russian invasion – Kyiv fears this could force it to reach an unpleasant peace with Moscow. But coal’s payoff should be short-lived; not a delay to the transition to clean energy, but an impetus to accelerate the transition.

Since before the Ukrainian invasion, Europe had halved the proportion of its total gas supply from Russia, but most options for diversifying suppliers have been exploited. Therefore, the focus must be on alternative energy sources and efficiency. To reduce coal burning, existing nuclear power plants should run as long as possible. Germany has been criticized for continuing to decommission its remaining nuclear power plants; Berlin insists technical and safety factors prevent it from remaining open. Some nuclear operators say it is safe to extend the life of nuclear power plants, but that requires timely government decisions.

The IEA rightly says the overall answer to today’s energy crunch and climate crisis is the same: a “massive surge” of investment to accelerate the transition to clean energy.Things are moving in the right direction; clean energy investment has grown by 2% annually in the five years following the 2015 Paris Agreement; since 2020, the pace has Speed ​​up to 12%. But this partly reflects higher material costs – spending on renewables and energy efficiency is well below demand.

industry says Renewable Energy Project What’s being held back is not a shortage of funding, but cumbersome regulatory and planning processes in many countries, as well as problems with connecting to the grid. Bureaucracies need to be streamlined and investments in grid modernization and storage development need to be accelerated so they can cope with higher levels of intermittent renewable energy.

EU capitals are working on rationing plans for Russia’s shutdown, even if they hope they won’t be asked. Coordination is needed to avoid competition for supplies that would weaken European unity. Soaring prices have prompted businesses and households to cut back on energy use; governments must take steps to protect the most vulnerable from hardship and encourage measures to insulate homes.

But many governments can do more with targeted campaigns to help consumers understand how to save energy and explain the real reasons why prices are so high, beyond climate efforts. Russia should not be allowed to use energy blackmail to achieve what it cannot achieve on the battlefield.

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