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

  Energy policy

  58 Debates

To achieve the Paris climate goals the EU wants the share of renewables in overall energy consumption to increase to at least 40 percent by 2030. The energy sector accounts for around three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions. Europe's press discusses how much progress the EU and its member states have made so far and how to accelerate the process.

After much wrangling, the EU's energy ministers have agreed on a reform of the bloc's electricity market. The key point: producers of non-fossil-based electricity - including electricity from nuclear power, which was highly controversial - will receive subsidies if the global market price falls below a certain level. When prices are high, they pass on surpluses to the state. The goal is stability for producers and consumers and less dependence on gas purchases.

Oil prices jumped by around four percent on Monday after the Hamas attack on Israel. Could an expansion of the conflict lead to a major oil crisis, as happened in 1973 as a result of the Yom Kippur War between Israel on one side and Egypt and Syria on the other? Or is our energy supply already independent and "green" enough to withstand such pressures?

Nine European countries on Sunday agreed on a megaproject to expand offshore wind energy production in the North Sea. Investments of more than 800 billion euros are planned to boost output step by step. The plan is to generate 300 gigawatt (GW) of energy annually by 2050. The project is financed by the EU and the participating states. Commentators see the project above all as a Herculean task.

Germany's nuclear phase-out is complete: after three and a half months of extended operation, the last three German nuclear power plants were shut down at 11:59 p.m. on April 15. Other European countries continue to rely on the technology, which has recently gained more advocates in the wake of the climate and energy crises. Still others like Poland are planning to start using it. This ambivalence is reflected in the commentaries.

US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has added a new angle to the ongoing investigation into the attacks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines. According to his research, the US military blew up the pipelines and Norway knew about it. On his blog, Hersh cites a single anonymous source. The US government has denied the allegations. Europe's press discusses their plausibility.

British oil giant Shell made a record profit of more than 38 billion euros in 2022, doubling what it raked in the year before. The main reason for the increased revenues is the sharp rise in oil and gas prices as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Do the oil multinationals need to be reined in?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin's policy of partially cutting off Europe's gas supplies in reaction to sanctions caused great anxiety among politicians, business representatives and the population - in particular regarding winter energy supplies. But although the winter is here and a major crisis has failed to materialise, Europe cannot yet rest on its laurels, commentators warn.

Police have begun a clearance operation in the village of Lützerath in North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany. The deserted village is to be bulldozed so that energy company RWE can mine the site for the lignite that lies beneath it. While the company has secured the mining rights, environmentalists have occupied the village in protest at the plans, arguing that coal mining should be banned in view of the climate crisis. Who is right?

Sweden's conservative government plans to expand nuclear power. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has announced plans to increase the upper limit of ten power plants nationwide and invest in new small reactors. The phasing out of nuclear power for which the Swedish people voted in a 1980 referendum but which has repeatedly been postponed is thus off the table. Commentators call for further steps in this direction.

One month after the baguette was added to Unesco's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, French bakers are facing a serious crisis. Many bakeries have been forced to close due to rising raw material and energy prices. The press underscores the important role of the bakery in French society.

After months of wrangling, the EU member states have agreed on a gas price cap of 180 euros per megawatt that would apply under certain conditions. The price limit is intended to protect customers from soaring energy costs as of mid-February 2023, but can be suspended in the event of shortages.

Electricity may be temporarily switched off in certain locations in France in January and February to avoid uncontrolled blackouts. The reason for potential shortages is that 18 of France's 56 nuclear reactors are currently off the grid due to maintenance measures which had so far been postponed. Sweden also fears power shortages and has put an oil-fired reserve power plant into operation. European commentators take different views of the measures.

The EU and G7 states introduced a price cap of 60 dollars (57 euros) per barrel for Russian oil on Monday. In conjunction with the partial embargo on oil imports to the EU, the measure is aimed at making it more difficult for Russia to finance its war against Ukraine. A spokesman for the Kremlin said his country had prepared for this eventuality. The press is at odds over the effectiveness of this strategy.

According to the government of Qatar, Germany has signed a gas export deal with the state-owned enterprise Qatar Energy. Under the agreement, up to two million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year will be supplied supplied to Germany for 15 years as of 2026. Commentators criticise that the deal runs counter to the current debates about climate protection and holding the World Cup in Qatar.

The Ukraine war has highlighted how vulnerable a centralised energy supply based on fossil energy sources is. A study in 2017 already showed how Ukraine could switch to 90 percent renewables by 2050, but went unnoticed at the time. Now the war could force a shift away from large-scale projects and towards decentralised and renewable energy sources. Commentators say this is exactly the right strategy.

EU leaders have reached an agreement in the dispute over plans to construct a pipeline to transport energy from Spain and Portugal via France to Germany. Instead of the MidCat land pipeline which would have run across the Pyrenees and which Macron opposed, an underwater pipeline between Barcelona and Marseille called BarMar is to be built. It is to be used for the transportation of gas initially, but also for green hydrogen later on.

In the dispute over measures to combat high energy costs, EU leaders have reached a compromise, although the details are not yet clear. The proposals include EU states making joint purchases of gas, partly on a mandatory basis, as well as a "dynamic price corridor". Commentators see much need for clarification.

US President Joe Biden has announced consequences following last week's decision by oil cartel Opec and its allies including Russia (Opec+), to cut oil production from November. Among other potential steps he has announced that the US will "re-evaluate" its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh's behaviour is a clear betrayal, commentators say, welcoming the announcement.

The German government last week agreed on a 200 billion euro gas price cap to cushion the burden of soaring energy costs for consumers and businesses. The move drew heavy criticism from other EU countries and also the EU Commission. Does the relief package give Germany an unfair advantage over other member states?

Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, the two gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, have been ruptured and rendered unusable for the time being. Underwater explosions have been identified as the cause, strengthening suspicions of sabotage. Commentators discuss motives and suspects.

Soaring energy prices pose a challenge for the EU as a whole, but also for individual member states, which are weighing up different measures to ease the pressure on their citizens. Commentators are particularly concerned about the approaching winter.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the Western sanctions are a failure and a "threat to the whole world". Shortly beforehand the Kremlin had escalated the current energy crisis by completely stopping gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on the grounds that the G7 and EU are planning to impose a price cap on Russian energy imports. Commentators warn against taking Moscow's narrative seriously.

The finance ministers of the G7 countries agreed on Friday to move forward on implementing a cap on the price of Russian oil. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also favours introducing a price cap on gas imports. Russia is threatening to cut off supplies entirely. Europe's press discusses who has more to lose.

The EU wants to reform the electricity market. The skyrocketing electricity prices, dictated primarily by by gas-fired power plants, are now "exposing, for different reasons, the limitations of our current electricity market design", EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday. Representatives of the EU member states will meet on September 9 to discuss alternatives. Europe's press debates the necessary measures.

Another huge natural gas field has been discovered off the southern coast of Cyprus. Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pileidou has announced that an estimated 70 billion cubic metres of good quality gas had been located, but significant technical hurdles must be overcome before it can be exploited. In 2011, large fields were discovered further east in Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone, but the country is locked in a dispute with Turkey over their exploitation.

In the face of energy shortages and rising electricity prices, several EU countries are discussing how to save the economy while easing the burden on citizens. Europe's press engages in a lively debate about excess profits taxes, subsidies, ways to save energy and the role of politics.

Heat waves, dried-up river beds, withered crops are signs of climate change while the energy crisis is worsening as a result of Russia's war against Ukraine: the switch to alternative energies and saving resources are more pressing than ever. Europe's press debates how this can be done most effectively.

After the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became a persona non grata in the EU amid suspicions that he commissioned the crime. This week, however, the controversial heir to the Saudi throne was received by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. The energy crisis is facilitating his rehabilitation, commentators suspect.

EU energy ministers have agreed on a gas emergency plan. After Russia throttled gas supplies the EU is anticipating major shortages, and particularly for Germany. The initial goal was to reduce gas consumption by 15 percent, but several opt-outs have since been conceded. This is just one of several reasons why the media has greeted the plan with scepticism.

Oil and gas producers are profiting from the rising prices in the energy crisis. The governments of Belgium and Spain have decided to levy a special tax on these excess profits. In France, however, president Emmanuel Macron has spoken out against such a move, sparking controversy in the nation's press.

The government in Riga has decided to stop the use of peat as an energy source as of 2030 - despite the fact that Latvia is the world's biggest peat exporter. The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions so the country qualifies to receive 184 million euros from the EU's Just Transition Mechanism. The national press is not happy about the decision given the current situation on the energy market.

For more than a week now EU countries have been discussing the EU Commission's proposal for a gas emergency plan. This would require member states to voluntarily cut their gas use by 15 percent and help each other out in case of shortages. After Russia announced further reductions in the supplies sent via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline as of Wednesday, an official agreement is expected today. Europe's press reflects a struggle for solidarity.

The crisis involving Germany's largest gas supplier Uniper is coming to a head: due to reduced Russian gas supplies the listed company has been forced to buy gas on the expensive spot market over the last few weeks in order to meet its delivery obligations, and is suffering enormous losses as a result. Its largest shareholder is the Finnish Fortum Group. The government in Helsinki has so far refused to intervene on the company's behalf, saying that this is Berlin's responsibility.

The heatwave and the record temperatures are hitting Europe hard. In view of forest fires and scorched fields, questions about how to combat climate change are becoming ever more existential. Commentators debate what political measures and changes in individual behaviour are needed.

US President Joe Biden's decision to pay a visit to Saudi Arabia during his trip Middle East trip is fuelling controversy. After the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which according to intelligence reports was authorised by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Biden adopted a harsh tone vis-à-vis Riyadh. Is the visit proof of double standards or necessary diplomacy?

Since Monday the gas flowing through the Russian-German Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which mainly supplies north-western Europe, has been cut off due to routine maintenance work. Many fear that Moscow will use this opportunity to cut off Europe's gas in the long term. Berlin wants to return a turbine that was in Canada for repair, although several states believe that it is subject to the sanctions that have been adopted.

The EU Parliament has approved the EU Commission's proposal from February to classify investments in nuclear power and natural gas as sustainable under certain conditions. Of the 705 parliamentarians, 328 voted against the classification. Austria and Luxembourg now want to appeal the decision. Europe's press is equally divided.

Energy prices in Europe remain at record high levels due to sanctions on Russian oil and reduced gas deliveries. Electricity prices hovered around 218 euros per kilowatt-hour on the exchanges this June, compared to 74 euros one year ago. Inflation also remains very high in the Eurozone at 8.6 per cent. Europe's press discusses priorities and strong nerves.

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.