Sporadic talk of energy rationing in Ireland has given way to a heated debate in Germany over who should have priority – households or businesses?
The European Commission has drawn up a plan to push ahead with energy savings of 15%, possibly even making it mandatory in all member states – a move the 27 governments would find extremely unpopular with voters. Energy is the big issue and there isn’t any good news about it.
The rampant heat wave in mainland Europe has convinced even the most die-hard climate change skeptics that the planet is on fire. The problem has led to strange side issues in the energy supply this summer. In Switzerland, the oldest nuclear power plant in the world still in operation in Benzau near Zurich and the border with Germany is threatened with dangerous overheating. It only uses water for cooling, which is drawn directly from the Aare.
The exceptional weather is making the cooling water hot and experts fear they will have to shut down the power plant. In France, where 70 percent of electricity comes from nuclear power, there were also cooling problems with some older reactors.
There were also other problems such as the corrosion of pipes in some plants. All of this has led to blackouts and a shift to more expensive gas and oil as Europe desperately tries to wean itself off Russian energy sources.
French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to keep energy costs down – something that’s easier to promise than to deliver. But he has big plans, and the Paris government is in the process of buying back the outstanding 14 percent of privately held shares in mostly state-owned Électricité de France for nearly €10 billion. Mr. Macron hopes the buyback can help advance plans to build a new generation of nuclear power plants and other efficiency gains. Ireland could end up buying a deal on that power from France if the interconnector becomes a reality.
The priority debate in Germany is of immediate relevance as the EU’s largest economy prepares for Russia to permanently shut off gas supplies. Under EU rules, private homes and essential services such as hospitals are protected from gas lockdowns, but industry is not.
But now German business leaders are fighting back and want everyone to reduce their gas consumption. Gas rationing for businesses could mean job cuts, so the two are linked in many ways.
Widespread industrial and business shutdowns in Germany could plunge the country into recession, with huge repercussions for all EU member states, including Ireland.
On Wednesday, the European Commission released a plan urging governments to prepare for a winter without Russian gas. It includes voluntary consumption cuts of 15 percent over the next eight months and prioritization to determine which sectors would be hit hardest.
Brussels also warned that energy savings targets could become binding. The plan promotes alternative energy sources, including nuclear and coal, incentives for businesses to use less gas, and mandatory limits on heating and air conditioning in public buildings.
It sets criteria that governments can use to determine which industries are given priority. If the voluntary efforts are unsuccessful, the Commission, after consultation with the member states, could set a binding target for reducing energy consumption.
Governments are expected to update their national contingency plans by the end of September. On a more positive note, Brussels said the proposed 15 percent reduction should be enough for Europe to weather the winter, even with a complete disruption to Russia’s gas supply.
This is grim stuff for a sunny summer Saturday indeed – but issues like this need to be addressed. Otherwise, the “strategy” could be reduced to the hope that climate change will also bring about a very mild winter.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/eu-energy-strategy-may-amount-to-fingers-crossed-for-a-mild-winter-41861308.html The EU’s energy strategy could amount to fingers crossed for a mild winter