Europe Admits That In Order To Wean Itself From Russian Energy, It Will Have To Burn More Coal

The European Commission has detailed a strategy to increase the EU’s renewable energy capacity and reduce its dependency on Russian fossil fuels, while also conceding that existing coal plants may have to be utilised for “longer than initially thought.”

On Wednesday, the Commission published a statement describing the REPowerEU plan’s goals, emphasising the importance of energy savings, energy import diversification, and speeding up “Europe’s clean energy transition.”

Between 2022 and 2027, it plans to invest an additional 210 billion euros ($220.87 billion). When it comes to renewable energy’s contribution of the EU’s energy mix, the Commission has recommended raising the current objective of 40 per cent by 2030 to 45 per cent.

The Commission’s suggestions came on the same day as the governments of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium announced that by 2030, they will strive for a combined offshore wind capacity of at least 65 gigawatts. They want to reach 150 GW of capacity by the middle of the century.

The situation is difficult on the fossil fuel front. According to Eurostat, Russia was the EU’s largest supplier of both petroleum products and natural gas last year.

The EU’s determination to wean itself from Russian hydrocarbons in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine implies it will have to source oil and gas from other regions of the globe to fill supply shortfalls.

According to the Commission, 1.5 to 2 billion euros in investment would be required to ensure oil supplies.

By 2030, an estimated 10 billion euros will be required to import enough liquefied natural gas and pipeline gas from other sources.

All of this occurs at a time when the EU has stated that it intends to be carbon neutral by 2050. In the medium term, the EU’s “Fit for 55” initiative aims to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030.

REPowerEU, according to the Commission, could not function without “a rapid implementation of all Fit for 55 measures and higher renewables and energy efficiency requirements.”

According to the Commission, gas use in the EU will “decrease at a faster rate, diminishing the function of gas as a transitional fuel.”

“However, shifting away from Russian fossil fuels will also require targeted investments for security of supply in gas infrastructure and very limited changes to oil infrastructure alongside large-scale investments in the electricity grid and an EU-wide hydrogen backbone,” it added.

“In parallel, some of the existing coal capacities might also be used longer than initially expected, with a role for nuclear power and domestic gas resources too,” the Commission said.

Frans Timmermans, the EU’s climate director, stated during a news conference that using less natural gas in the transition period would mean “you might use coal a bit longer – that has a negative impact on your emissions.”

 “But if at the same time, as we propose, you rapidly speed up the introduction of renewables — solar, wind, biomethane — you then have the opposite movement,” he said.

Timmermans, the European Commission’s executive vice president for the European Green Deal, went on to say that establishing a common ground is crucial.

“If we can actually do what I say — reduce our energy consumption in combination with a speedier introduction of renewables — we will bring down our emissions even quicker than before,” he said.

“And then, of course we will have slightly higher emissions if people stick a bit longer to coal, but we need to strike the balance so that, on balance, we do not increase our emissions — we hopefully even decrease them more.”

Coal has a significant environmental impact, according to Greenpeace, which calls it “the dirtiest, most polluting form of creating energy.”

Other sources of emissions from coal burning include carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, particulates, and nitrogen oxides, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Several environmental organisations slammed the European Commission’s announcement.

“These plans are supposed to fast-track the clean energy transition — but the European Commission’s latest strategy gives with one hand and takes with the other,” Eilidh Robb, an anti-fossil fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said.

“So-called REPowerEU contains useful and necessary strides towards renewable solutions but it simultaneously enables almost 50 fossil fuel infrastructure projects and expansions,” Robb said.

(Adapted from CNBC.com)

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