Gas pipeline in Yakutia, Russia. (© picture alliance/dpa/TASS/Kirill Kukhmar)

  Energy policy

  18 Debates

The pressure on Europe is growing as a result of the reduced gas supplies from Russia: in Germany, Economics Minister Robert Habeck has announced that the country will move to stage two of its emergency gas plan. "We are in a gas crisis," Habeck said, warning of further price increases. How to ease the burden for Europeans?

As many regions in Europe struggle with a heat wave, Russia is reducing its gas supplies, leaving the continent facing the prospect of a cold winter. Germany and Italy, which under normal circumstances would be filling up their gas storage facilities in preparation for the cold season, are currently the worst affected. The shortages have caused a 30-percent rise in gas prices. Media in Central and Eastern Europe are concerned for consumers.

The Dutch government has announced plans to ban fossil-fuel heating systems from 2026 and subsidise the use of heat pumps. The move also comes against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and Europe's efforts to end its dependence on fossil energy from Russia. The national press doubts the transition can be implemented so swiftly.

The EU Commission on Wednesday presented its RepowerEU plan, which aims to reduce dependence on Russian energy and accelerate the green transition. The EU plans to invest up to 300 billion euros in the form of loans and grants in the initiative. Massive investments, energy savings and a joint procurement mechanism similar to that for vaccines are also in the pipeline. An inspired project for the future or too much too fast?

The war in Ukraine is causing a marked rise in energy prices across the globe. This is one of the factors driving Europe to seek independence from Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible. In the short term, governments are also trying to develop strategies to cushion the impact of price hikes and counteract the impoverishment of the population. Europe's press debates the different approaches.

The US has announced a ban on energy imports from Russia. Although the EU will not join the embargo, it plans to cut imports of Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of the year and be independent of Russian fossil fuels well before 2030. While some commentators stress that this is not the time for hesitation, others argue that an embargo won't make much difference anyway.

The EU Commission has presented its new taxonomy for sustainable investments. As expected, natural gas and nuclear power will be considered green energies as of 2023, subject to certain conditions. Austria and Luxembourg have announced that they are ready to go to court over the decision and other EU states also openly oppose the move. A majority in the EU Parliament or a veto by at least 20 member states could still overturn the decision. Europe's press is divided.

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.

The ex-Soviet republic of Moldova and Russia have settled their gas dispute for the time being by signing a new five-year supply contract. In the course of the dispute the Republic of Moldova also negotiated a supply contract with Poland. Commentators see the episode as instructive on several levels.

The Republic of Moldova, which so far has been dependent on Russian gas but has been unable to reach an agreement with Moscow on terms for continued supplies, has now purchased a first "test portion" of natural gas in Poland, which will be delivered via Ukraine. Journalists believe this confrontation could have unexpected consequences.

Wholesale prices for natural gas have quadrupled within a year, and a meeting of EU energy ministers on Tuesday failed to produce a joint action plan to counter this inflationary trend. While Spain, Greece and others are demanding intervention in the markets, Germany, the Netherlands and the Baltic States want to wait and see first. Some commentators see the single market and EU energy policies as the core of the problem.

Ten EU countries are calling on Brussels to label nuclear power as a green source in the EU's taxonomy for sustainable activities. Among them are states like France, which have long relied on nuclear power, and also countries like Poland, which only now plan to start building nuclear power plants. The taxonomy is seen as an important guide for sustainable investments. Commentators are divided.

Rising energy prices coupled with the need to reduce emissions are shifting the focus back to nuclear power - and not just in France. Europe's commentators discuss whether nuclear power plants can be seen as a sustainable option under the current circumstances.

French President Emmanuel Macron has outlined in a speech how he wants to make France greener and more digital by 2030. He said further investments are needed in nuclear power, which he described as absolutely key to achieving the climate goals. But this is also about business: shortly after Macron's speech the French state energy company EDF submitted an offer to Poland for the construction of four to six nuclear reactors.

The newly elected US President Joe Biden wants to halt construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and invest in gas instead, according to Canadian media. Due to the estimated damage to the environment the project was already halted by Obama in 2015 but revived again by Trump. Biden plans to shift the focus in other energy policy areas as well, with two trillion dollars already earmarked for the endeavour.

The oldest French nuclear power plant to date, Fessenheim in Alsace, was taken off the grid on June 30. Critics had argued for decades that the nuclear power plant, which went into operation in 1977, posed a major safety risk. German politicians and environmental activists welcomed the decommissioning of the plant, but many employees and residents fiercely opposed it. German and French commentators are also divided.

The Saudi oil company Aramco made its stock market debut on Tuesday and has replaced Microsoft and Apple as the most valuable company in the world. Saudi Arabia plans to use the proceeds from the sale of the state-owned company's shares to finance economic reforms aimed at reducing its dependence on oil. Commentators have their doubts about whether investors will play along.

According to a report commissioned by the State Supervision of Mines authority the Netherlands needs to drastically reduce its gas production in order to protect the citizens of Groningen province from further earthquakes. Commentators weigh the safety of the citizens against the country's international obligations.