The disturbing reality of the Ukraine/ Russia war that has shocked the world continues to keep alive discussions of broader economic sanctions on Russia. Europe is one of the regions most affected by the shift in the geopolitical climate.
The embargo on Russian fossil fuels in Europe is up for consideration now as the world is determined to end reliance on the country’s resources and solve the energy crisis. On April 7th, the European Commission announced that a coal ban is expected to be approved in a new package of sanctions this week.
The move is significant as it breaks a portion of the ties with Russia and thus prevents it from financing its war operations. It would cost the country $4.4 billion (4 billion euros) a year or $20 million a day, however, the block still continues to pay $850 million a day to Russia for oil and gas.
The EU needs to replace 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to end its reliance on Russian suppliers as EU countries, especially big economies like Italy and Germany, rely heavily on Russian natural gas for heating and generating electricity.
The block still struggles with oil and gas but EU officials claim they are working on replacing Russian imports entirely by 2030. In this regard, on March 8th, the European Commission outlined a plan called REPowerEU that outlines the measure it will take to replace Russian oil and gas by 2030.
Hydrogen is taking part in Europe’s plan not just for its energy transition but also in the strategy of replacing Russian supplies. The EU outlined production of an extra 25 to 50 billion cubic meters of hydrogen to replace natural gas by 2030. Additionally, it also plans 18 billion cubic meters of biogas each year by 2030.
Under the REPowerEU plan, the EU wants green hydrogen production and imports to come up to 20 million tons by 2030. The extra hydrogen production will require building up extra production capacity, equipment, pipelines, and storage depots over the next several years either for producing hydrogen fuel within the block or for importing it from overseas.
Governments also want to double down on renewable energy, massively improve energy efficiency in buildings, and electrify their economies. Out of the around 131 million buildings in the EU, the latest plan projects 40 million to be fitted with heat pumps by 2030.
According to five different reports that have assessed the easiest transition pathway for Europe, solar and wind offer the biggest potential in ending the energy crisis while also sustaining the EU goal of 55% emissions reductions compared to 1990 levels by 2030.
One of the reports found that solar electricity generation increased 23% globally in 2021 and wind electricity rose 14% – a rate of change that if kept could put the world on course to achieve its net zero commitments.
The analysis also revealed that the world’s five largest economies and more than 45 other countries have hit a 10% wind and solar energy generation threshold in 2021 and seven countries including China, hit that 10% threshold for the first time.
Several countries including Netherlands, Australia and Vietnam switched more than 8% of their electricity production from fossil fuels to renewables since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 which also confirms renewables are often a much cheaper energy choice than fossil fuels. They could also serve better the developing countries in expanding their energy needs.
The energy crisis in Europe is highlighted by rising energy prices and lack of resources supply, a shift that is concerning nations might also hurt the block’s emissions reduction goals and climate policies. Many analysts though point out that if EU prioritizes replacing oil and gas with renewable energy like solar and wind, and increase hydrogen production, it would ensure a smoother transition away from Russian imports, the pressure on energy bills would reduce and the Paris Agreement target would be kept alive.