Winter warning cuts power to Europe

 

Cutting wood for heating outside of Moldova  Europe's energy crisis has forced some people to turn to cheaper heating sources like firewood as the weather cools

Analysis Says As winter begins in Rome, European countries are taking steps to soften the blow from Russia's natural gas shortages on the continent, and the continent's woes could last for years.

When gas supplies from Russia began dwindling earlier this year, European countries aimed to fill natural gas storage facilities to at least 80 percent of capacity by Nov. One the traditionals started of the winter months.  Figures show countries have exceeded that level, topping 90 percent in early October and adding to it since then.
Analysts say a combination of conservation efforts and unusually warm weather is needed in the weeks leading up to November. 1 helped boost storage levels as reduced natural gas use.



  Massimo Nicolazzi, a consultant with the Energy Security Program of the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, said gas consumption in Europe was 25 percent lower last month than in October last year.

  But while higher storage levels may help avoid rolling blackouts and rationing, it does not mean, as some fear, that major hurdles have been overcome.

The figures are expected to show that inflation in the 19-member eurozone rose to a record high of 10.7 percent last month, according to flash estimates from statistics agency Eurostat last week.

  Natural gas in Europe is mostly used by households, power generation and industry, and countries are taking various measures to curb its use through policies related to energy storage, joint purchases or price caps, Nicolazzi said.

  Antony Froggatt, deputy director of the Environment and Society Program and senior research fellow at London's Chatham House, said government measures to deal with the energy crisis in Europe were a "mixed bag".

Call for renewable energy.

High energy prices have led to increased efficiency and public support for developing renewable energy.  The rush to replace Russian gas has forced governments to invest in gas liquefaction plants and seek alternative sources of natural gas, Froggatt said.

  However, he said the money governments set aside to mitigate the effects of rising energy prices, at least 500 billion euros ($494 billion), is less available to promote clean energy sources.

  "For some policymakers, energy security that protects the environment and combats climate change appears to trump promise."

  Nicolazzi said renewable energy policy is unlikely to improve amid the current energy crisis, though perhaps a death sentence.  The European Union's 55 initiative agreed last year that EU member states should reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030, mostly by shifting energy production from traditional fossil fuel sources such as gas,renewables use to petroleum and coal  .

"Nicolazzi says the 'Fit for 55' program cannot realistically be more ambitious than that, but it needs to help create more incentives for governments to take stronger action to meet those goals."

  It will take some time before we see changes in the continent's energy culture, Froggatt said.

  "European markets have long been accustomed to receiving gas supplies from Russia and political new projects and support will take time to bear fruit.  The challenge begins with this winter."


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