Since July, Russia has been sending only a third of the volume of gas Europe needs to pressure European countries to ease their sanctions on financial transactions and technologies. Experts say Putin is using energy as a weapon to weaken Europe’s support for Ukraine.
An energy crisis could spark a spiral of economic recession and social tensions in Europe, experts warn. The effects of this energy crisis are not yet serious because of the summer, but we are now approaching autumn and the onset of cold weather. It is at this point that we will really measure the impact of the Russian threat, as many European countries depend on Russian gas.
It is therefore no surprise that this gas war raises the question of Europe’s energy independence. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, depends on Russia for almost half of its gas supply.
Energy prices in Europe have soared in recent weeks. Wholesale electricity prices for 2023 in Germany and France, the two largest European economies, thus broke records on August 26, with more than 1,000 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) and 850 euros per MWh, respectively. A year ago, prices for these two countries were around 85 euros per megawatt hour.
Total European gas prices reached 341 euros per MWh, close to the record high of 345 euros in March.
The member states of the European Union are in the process of drawing up energy-saving and austerity plans, knowing that with winter approaching, the risk of shortages and power cuts increases. The EU could soon hold an emergency meeting to deal with this energy crisis.
“@EU2022_CZ will convene an urgent meeting of energy ministers to discuss specific emergency measures to tackle the energy situation,” tweeted the prime minister of the Czech Republic, the country currently holding the EU’s rotating presidency, on August 26.
Shutting down nuclear power plants is ‘bad for the environment’
Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, is again launching a controversial solution he considers the most realistic to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia for oil and gas supplies.
“Countries should increase nuclear power generation!” the billionaire just suggested on Twitter. “It’s insane from a national security and environmental point of view to shut them down.”
As expected, the tweet from the world’s richest man immediately sparked thousands of comments and rekindled the ultra-sensitive debate about the atom. Environmentalists are against nuclear energy.
“Nuclear is clean, efficient and could completely replace fossil fuels if it were embraced. It isn’t, because so-called environmentalists are not for clean energy, they are anti-human,” said journalist Scott Morefield.
“Some are indeed, unfortunately, anti-human,” Musk replied.
Nuclear energy is one of the measures recommended by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its ten-point plan to the European Union to reduce dependence on Russian supplies by more than a third, while supporting the European Green Deal.
“Key measures recommended in the IEA Ten Point Plan include not signing new gas contracts with Russia; maximizing gas supply from other sources; accelerating the deployment of solar and wind energy; making the most of existing low-emission energy sources, such as nuclear and renewables; and stepping up energy efficiency measures in homes and businesses,” the organization said last March.
The EU has set itself the goal of making member states carbon neutral by 2050.
European ecologists and countries like Austria and Luxembourg are against nuclear energy, which they do not regard as green energy. Nuclear power makes it possible to produce carbon-free electricity, but the environmental impact of the radioactive waste and the risk of accidents are significant, these critics emphasize. They also say that nuclear energy is dangerous because its waste can cause significant damage.
Proponents of nuclear power believe that it emits very little CO2 and thus does not contribute to climate change.