What steps are European countries taking to prepare for the winter without gas from Russia?
With the threat of further Russian gas cuts leading to fears of energy shortages this winter, some countries are cutting back. What steps are they taking?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has left the European Union’s energy future uncertain. Early last month, the President of the European Commission Ursula van der Leyden encouraged member states to try and cut their natural gas use by, at least, fifteen percent by the end of this year.
Many states are innovating and passing emergency legislation to incentivize citizens to use public transit, lower their energy bills, and increase public ownership of energy companies.
As the threat that Russia will cut natural gas and petroleum supply to Europe this winter grow, countries like Germany are working to avoid blackouts quickly as temperatures will begin to drop in the coming months.
What policies are being implemented to reduce energy consumption?
Prices are being felt across the continent, and political unrest is a primary concern of most governments.
So far, governments that have been cut off from Russian natural gas seem to be coping well with the energy shortages. Those who have been cut off from natural gas for not paying in roubles include Bulgaria, Finland, Poland, Denmark, and the Netherlands, as well as Shell Energy Europe in Germany.
Reducing the cost of public transit
Spain and some cities in Germany are reducing or eliminating fares for some public transit systems in an attempt to increase ridership and give would-be drivers another option to cope when faced with high prices at the pump.
When buying multi or season tickets for the short and medium-range trains in Spain will be free starting September and the discount will run through the rest of this year.
The German parliament voted to decrease local transportation rates for residents in their area from June to September. Tickets for local transit are pegged at $9 a month.
Euronews reported that some union leaders had warned that this move could backfire if public transit system demand surges and more service is not supplemented. Overcrowded trains and the possibility of longer wait times could frustrate those who rely on public transportation systems most.
Conserving energy in public places
Another option taken by governments is to decrease energy usage in public offices and spaces.
Germany has also announced energy conservation measures that cut lights at public monuments and the heat in leisure centers.
To encourage energy efficiency and conservation in Greece, the government has encouraged public buildings to reduce or turn down their AC, turn off all electronic equipment and install shades on the window to decrease heat inside.
Increasing coal usage and production
While Europe’s long-term goal is to reduce carbon dioxide, it seems they are turning to energy sources like coal to fill the gaps from the lack of Russian oil this winter.
Coal production is expected to increase this year as countries attempt to keep the lights on as energy prices rocket up and Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, limits supply.
Germany, for one, has passed emergency legislation to re-open to coal power plants to begin processing the energy resoruce in time for winter. This move was even supported by the German Green Party who called the actions “painful but necessary.” The Greens do not, however, see the use of coal as a long-term viable solution.