High energy costs: heat or eat?

Electricity and gas prices have soared over the last few months in Europe. They are now roughly a third higher than a year ago and are expected to rise further in 2022. Inflation is also making food more expensive. Europe's consumers are increasingly feeling the pinch, and there are reports of people having to make the choice between going without meals or heating their homes. Europe's press warns of the social consequences and looks for energy alternatives.

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Adevărul (RO) /

Heating schools should be top priority

In Romania, some schools are switching to online classes because they lack the means to heat their classrooms. Writing in Adevărul, education expert Stefan Vlaston is outraged:

“In addition to Romanians having to worry about freezing in their homes because they have no money to pay their bills, something much worse is happening. State institutions, schools and hospitals are paralysed and having to close because they can't pay their bills. ... The state has money for disproportionate pensions [of former public servants] and salaries, it has money for institutions that blow what is now very expensive gas out the window, but it has none to heat schools and hospitals.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Johnson immune to people's suffering

Boris Johnson doesn't care about the disastrous impact of rising energy and food prices, The Guardian rails:

“The crisis facing British people right now is not only that millions can't afford the basics, it is that their leaders have no intention of helping them. ... People in this country have been skipping meals and wearing coats in their front rooms for some time, and no one has been paying attention to this either. The difference now, perhaps, is that such events will not be confined to the working class. Middle-class families who were previously managing could soon be tipped into financial hardship, while those who were already struggling will fall into abject poverty.”

Diena (LV) /

Return to nuclear power no longer wishful thinking

With energy costs as high as they are now, Diena finds the idea of building a nuclear power plant more feasible:

“Naturally, energy conditions change over time. Technology evolves, and the Baltic countries' fear of nuclear energy is diminishing as the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 is already water under the bridge for today's generation. So the idea of building a nuclear power plant in one of the Baltic states in the next few years may no longer be a utopia, but a reality. However, the experiences with the Visaginas plant [which was not completed after negative referendum results] also show that one should not naively hope that such large projects can be implemented quickly and without obstacles. In any case, interesting times await us on the path to energy independence.”

To Vima (GR) /

Greek economy in great danger

The Greek government has no time to lose, writes To Vima:

“The only encouraging factor is that the EU has developed, anti-inflationary mechanisms. Its institutions are structured in such a way that they can support the stability of the currency. It is certain to take action if and when it believes that in the medium-term price stability, and consequently the euro, will be affected. ... Yet, the dangers are great, especially for the vulnerable Greek economy, which waited during a decade-long economic crisis for a breather. ...The government is obliged to do all it can to avert a corrosive inflationary chain. It must pressure electricity producers to check the price of electricity, as the price of natural gas recedes.”

Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR Online) (EE) /

Long-term perspective won't help now

The Estonian government is acting like a fireman talking about fire prevention next to a burning house, finds ERR Online:

“When the situation is normal it's a good thing for ministers to take their time about making decisions. ... But the last two years - with the Covid pandemic and soaring electricity prices - are not a normal situation so the government must act quickly, flexibly and creatively to deal with the crisis. Obviously, politicians need to think about how to prevent a price shock in the future. But the top priority now has to be to compensate citizens and businesses for the electricity prices in December.”

Jydske Vestkysten (DK) /

District heating must have competition

Denmark is discussing a proposal by the head of an energy company to make connection to the district heating compulsory wherever it is available as a way to protect the electricity grid during the conversion to green energy. Jydske Vestkysten rejects the idea:

“It is unreasonable to prohibit someone from purchasing of a climate-friendly heat pump simply because they live in an area with district heating. Consumers risk being made to rely on a more expensive and less climate-friendly district heating product. If the market is left free, this will encourage individual district heating companies to make sure their heat is cheap and climate-friendly enough to compete with heat pumps.”

Yetkin Report (TR) /

Risk of acute energy poverty

A large section of Turkey's population will be impoverished over the next two months, Yetkin Report predicts:

“A pitch-black winter is at our doorstep. With minimum consumption, retired citizens, whose monthly salary is newly determined as 2500 lira [due to inflation], will have to allocate 35 percent of their total income for electricity and gas. As a result, these people will become 'energy poor', and thus, their basic rights will be violated. It is clear that while energy should be accessible and affordable for everyone, most of our citizens are deprived of this right. ... It seems that poverty will be our fate in many aspects and a large part of society will be affected.”

Adevărul (RO) /

The people can feel the pinch

The soaring electricity and gas prices could trigger a chain reaction in Romania, Adevărul warns:

“Many families will soon not earn enough to pay their energy bills. The impact on the economy could be dramatic as arrears build up and the social problem grows bigger by the day. Inflation will then affect the entire supply chain and significantly decrease purchasing power. This will lead to reduced demand. ... Against this gloomy backdrop, the energy minister has adopted a light-hearted attitude and assured us that Romania's energy sector has a production surplus that will soon lead to a drop in prices. The reality, however, is quite different.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

No incentive to replace coal furnaces

The rising gas prices aren't helping Poland in its fight against smog, Rzeczpospolita writes:

“There is a lot of uncertainty among Poles who want to replace outdated, polluting furnaces with new-generation gas-powered appliances. Those who have already replaced their old coal-fired furnaces may feel a bit short-changed, as their bills are now skyrocketing. And those who are planning to replace them may be deterred by the exploding prices of the blue fuel.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Riga calls for a sense of responsibility

Energy prices continue to rise in Latvia, too. Neatkarīgā doesn't expect much support from the government:

“As President Egils Levits said in a recent TV interview: 'The government and the majority in parliament are responsible for the political situation in the country. Nevertheless the people must understand that the state cannot regulate everything or solve all their problems. Thinking that the state will take care of everything reflects an old Soviet mentality.' ... We can be absolutely sure that he did not think for a moment that this sentence could provoke a negative reaction.”