EU warns in opposition to fossil gas ‘backsliding’ as coal replaces Russian gasoline


The European Commission president has warned EU member states to not backtrack on their long-term drive to chop fossil gas use, as Germany, Austria and the Netherlands mentioned they’d fireplace up coal crops after Russia moved to restrict gasoline provides.

Ursula von der Leyen mentioned governments want to remain targeted on “massive investment in renewables”.

“We have to make sure that we use this crisis to move forward and not to have a backsliding on the dirty fossil fuels,” she mentioned in an interview. “It’s a fine line and it’s not determined whether we are going to take the right turn.”

Countries are involved about additional cuts to gasoline provides, which EU leaders declare have been orchestrated by the Kremlin.

The imminent rise in coal use, even when momentary, has stoked issues that European international locations may use the disaster to delay the change to much less polluting options.

Rob Jetten, the Netherlands’ local weather and power minister, mentioned on Monday that the nation would change legal guidelines that require coal-fired stations to function at a most of 35 per cent capability.

Germany and Austria introduced the emergency restart of mothballed coal crops on Sunday after Russia minimize capability on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 60 per cent final week. The pipeline, which runs by means of the Baltic Sea to Germany, is likely one of the major conduits for Russian gasoline to Europe. EU officers are involved Russia may minimize provides additional earlier than winter.

Russia has blamed the capability minimize on technical points affecting the pipeline. However, it has declined to make up the shortfall by means of different pipeline routes.

A gas-receiving station of the halted Nord Stream 2 undertaking in Lubmin, Germany © Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Other EU international locations, together with Italy, are anticipated to comply with Germany in restarting coal-fired energy stations. Member states are dealing with mounting financial pressures due to the power shortfalls, with benchmark European gasoline costs up by greater than 50 per cent up to now week. Gas is a minimum of six occasions dearer within the eurozone than it was earlier than the pandemic.

Von der Leyen mentioned the EU has “emergency steps in place” to reply to the specter of falling provides from Russia, together with power financial savings measures and “prioritising” which industries obtain gasoline. She singled out for reward current German efforts to avoid wasting power, saying it was one of many EU’s only instruments.

The fee president cited figures exhibiting that European consumption of gasoline had already fallen by 9 per cent within the first quarter, in contrast with the identical interval final 12 months. Industry has been decreasing gasoline use partly in response to near-record costs. If shoppers turned thermostats down by 2C it may considerably scale back gasoline use, she added.

The EU needs to speed up plans to extend technology from renewable sources whereas discovering methods to diversify its gasoline provides, corresponding to bringing in seaborne cargoes of liquefied pure gasoline (LNG) from different areas.

Von der Leyen mentioned the fee was doing every thing potential in order that the EU would in future be capable to say “we made the right choices”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added urgency to the EU’s plans to shift to renewables. Under the “REPowerEU” plan, the bloc goals to chop reliance on Russian power, diversify its sources of gasoline and develop wind and photo voltaic capability.

Von der Leyen highlighted a current journey to the Eastern Mediterranean the place the EU hopes gasoline provides from the waters of Israel, Cyprus and Egypt could finally present extra LNG for Europe.

She additionally mentioned producers corresponding to Norway and Azerbaijan have been “stepping up” by rising output to provide the EU options to Russian gasoline provides, which made up as a lot as 40 per cent of the EU whole earlier than the invasion of Ukraine.

REPowerEU would improve renewable power funding and streamline planning laws in order that tasks, together with wind farms, may very well be constructed extra rapidly, she mentioned.

“We know by now they’re not only good for our climate, but also good for our energy security and independence.”