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Might fuel rationing be on Europe’s horizon?

27/4/2022

4 min read

Headshot of Steve Hodgson, Acting Senior Editor, New Energy World

Welcome to this, the seventh issue of New Energy World – the online weekly that replaced Energy World and Petroleum Review magazines back in March to modernise and unify the editorial offering to Energy Institute (EI) Members and others. Those seven weeks have flown by as the team – led by myself, Steve Hodgson, Acting Senior Editor – specialist journalists from both predecessor magazines and new blood, have stepped up to the weekly publishing schedule.

As well as being more immediate, New Energy World also covers the whole global energy industry in one publication for the first time, giving, we hope, insightful views into how the many parts of sector are approaching the energy transition. It’s a vast subject area, so individual issues can only offer a snapshot of news stories, feature articles and comment pieces selected, written and commissioned by the editorial team. Please do take a look every week and keep tabs on the industry.

 

We are well aware that you, the readers, are all specialists in your own fields. We hope New Energy World will keep you in touch with the rest of the energy industry – policies, technologies, installations etc, as well as people issues and EI activities around the world. 

 

Unsettlingly, our launch on 16 March came just three weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine and, for the first couple of issues it seemed hard to look beyond the European energy crisis that followed. I’m sure we will be covering this topic for quite some time to come. 

 

Since then, we have included news stories on everything from wind turbine construction in France to the latest data on atmospheric CO2 concentrations. And feature articles on everything from solar thermal-fuelled district heating in Denmark to energy policy in Ireland. A variety of authors have also contributed comment articles. 

 

European energy crisis

Back to Europe’s energy crisis. I spent some time in the Czech Republic over Easter and, descending by air into Prague, I was struck by being able to see several coal-fired power stations around the city – smoke from the stacks give them away. It’s a change from the UK, where nearly all the old coal power stations now stand silent and still, having ended their days of emitting smoke (and steam), or have been demolished.

 

I remember on past trips to Germany being surprised by the huge number of onshore wind turbines visible from the air – Germany is certainly ahead of the Czech Republic in having by far the largest fleet of onshore wind turbines in Europe, but also continues to burn plenty of coal and lignite for power generation. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), coal still accounts for almost half the power generation and a quarter of residential heat supplies in the Czech Republic. I was not mistaken. 

 

But, everything changes, and climate targets have made coal increasingly undesirable across Europe; Czechia must inevitably move away from coal. Last year’s IEA policy report suggests that the question is no longer if, but when coal will exit the country’s energy mix, with wind and solar eventually playing significant roles, alongside gas and an expanded nuclear sector. And, given that the country’s energy intensity is above the IEA average, action to place energy efficiency at the centre of policymaking is essential. 

 

The latest issue of EURACTIV’s Green Brief makes the point well, if alarmingly. If Russian gas flows are constrained next winter, it says Europeans may have to prepare for the rationing of gas used for domestic heating and – perhaps – for power generation as well. Consumers in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are all at risk. The reduction of gas use in buildings is therefore more urgent than ever. 

 

Indeed, large rises in gas prices make the financial benefits of burning less ever more valuable. Little can be achieved before next winter begins, but the case for demand reduction is more pressing – and promises higher rewards – than it has been for years. The role of gas storage is crucial too – take a look at the feature article on this subject in this issue. 

 

Fuel rationing – isn’t that something from old wartime days? It certainly is – and may be again soon.

 

For now, all the content in New Energy World is open access – available to anyone with an internet connection. Please pass the website address on to interested colleagues and friends. Access arrangements will change, however, once the publication is fully established, so that only members of the EI will be able to see the whole picture. 

 

Want to comment on New Energy World? Or to contribute an article? Please go to the Contact page.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the Acting Senior Editor only and are not necessarily given or endorsed by or on behalf of the Energy Institute.

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