The energy crisis is a “wake-up call” for Europe to abandon fossil fuels

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“Today’s experience of rising energy prices is obviously a wake-up call… We should speed up the transition to clean energy and get rid of dependence on fossil fuels,” a senior EU official announced in the European Commission a series of measures aimed at responding to the crisis.

As the world recovers from the pandemic and Russia’s natural gas delivery is lower than expected, global demand has increased, driving a sharp rise in EU energy prices. According to data from the European Commission, wholesale electricity prices have increased by 200% compared to the 2019 average.

“Winter is here, and many electricity costs are higher than they have been in a decade,” Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson told reporters on Wednesday.

Wholesale natural gas prices-which have soared to record highs in France, Spain, Germany and Italy-are expected to remain high throughout the winter. The committee stated that it expects prices to fall in the spring, but still higher than the average of the past few years. According to Eurostat data, most EU countries rely on gas-fired power stations to meet their electricity demand, and about 40% of the natural gas comes from Russia.

Simson stated that the committee’s preliminary assessment indicated that Gazprom has been fulfilling its long-term contract, “while providing little or no additional supply”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that under existing contracts, Russia has increased the supply of natural gas to Europe to the maximum possible level, but cannot exceed these thresholds. “We can say that Russia fulfilled all contractual obligations perfectly,” he said.

Measures that EU countries can take to help consumers and businesses cope with soaring electricity costs include providing emergency income support to households to help them pay for energy bills, providing state assistance to companies, and targeted tax cuts. Member states can also temporarily delay bill payment and establish procedures to ensure that no one is disconnected from the grid.

Green energy solutions

The European Commission has also issued a series of long-term measures that the EU should consider to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and respond to energy price fluctuations.

“Our top priority is to protect European consumers, especially the most vulnerable consumers,” Simson said. “Secondly, we want to make our energy system better prepared and more resilient, so that we won’t have to face similar situations in the future,” she added.

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Simson said that this requires speeding up the green energy transition, not slowing it down. “We are not facing a spike in energy prices because of our climate policy or the high price of renewable energy. We are facing it because of the soaring fossil fuel prices,” she continued.

“The only long-term remedy for demand shocks and price fluctuations is the transition to a green energy system.”

Simson said that she will propose to EU leaders a package of measures to decarbonize the European natural gas and hydrogen markets by 2050. Other measures to improve the stability of the energy market may include increasing natural gas storage capacity and joint purchases of natural gas at the EU level.

— Katharina Krebs reported.

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