By Our Anxious Swedish Correspondent.
“This price shock cannot be underestimated,” EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson told MEPs during a debate in Strasbourg on Wednesday (6 October). The increase in energy prices, driven by a surge in gas demand and tight supply, and their knock-on effect on consumers and industry bills have put the EU bloc’s economic recovery under pressure.
Growing energy crisis can become even more serious
In September, we had unusually little wind in northern Europe, which has led to low deliveries from wind power. There is a shortage of natural gas, partly because Russia has been hit by fires in its natural gas factories, partly because it benefits the power in Kremlin. This past winter also meant a high demand for natural gas. So, the big paradox is that due to the lack of natural gas, some electricity suppliers are forced to increase their use of coal, which drives up prices because coal is so expensive for climate reasons.
But what does it have to do with the climate? Well, everything is connected. Solar and wind power have become cheap, very much because of inexpensive Chinese technology, that it competes with coal. And thanks to the EU’s pricing of emission rights, use of coal power was collapsing. The price for emitting carbon dioxide is 63 euros per tonne. To a large extent, natural gas has replaced coal as an energy source in Europe. But the price of natural gas has skyrocketed.
Everything contributes to a growing energy crisis that could become even more serious if there is a cold winter in Europe.
19 of China’s regions have been hit by power outages in recent weeks. This means that manufacturing of your next mobile phone or computer may be delayed. Factories are calling for energy as growth accelerated following the pandemic. At the same time, China’s own coal reserves are running dry and it has forced them to import expensive coal from Australia, among other places. The shortage of electricity in China is also due to the fact that the factories have new environmental requirements with a limit on how much electricity they can use from coal-fired power plants.
China is facing a crossroad. Heavy responsibility rests on their shoulders, because they emit 28 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions. They would have to close 600 of their 1,000 coal-fired power plants by 2030. The challenge is enormous. China’s factories produce, among other things, half of all steel and cement in the world.
China has promised to start reducing its emissions, but only after 2030. It is completely insufficient to meet the global target of a maximum of 1.5 degrees warming. But many experts believe that China’s promise to stop building coal-fired power plants outside China shows that they are beginning to realize that coal has become too expensive. The big question is how will China be able to break its own carbon dependency without losing growth? A growth that is largely driven by all the gadgets we buy from them.
In just a few weeks, the global climate summit will begin in Glasgow. What everyone is waiting for is for India and China to bring tougher climate promises to the negotiating table. The fact that they are now suffering from electricity shortages due to the high coal prices will hardly increase their willingness to promise even greater emission reductions. The timing is extremely unfortunate.
Politicians now have two choices: to act against climate change and at the same time avoid a popular uprising against higher electricity and petrol prices, or slow down the pace of climate transition.