Falling thermostats and woolen socks: Europeans face harsh winter due to insufficient gas from Russia (AFP/Ina FASSBENDER)
Falling thermostats and woolen socks: Europeans are facing a harsh winter because they don’t have enough gas from Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine rocked the energy world six months ago.
On the front line, Latvians have already run out of Russian gas since late July and know what to expect for the next few months. “Energy prices are so high that we installed our own water heater, which is cheaper to use than using collective hot water,” says Juanes Ratinics, who lives in Reschen, a small town not far from the Russian border.
This retired border guard warns the “politicians” who are waiting for help to pay their next rising tariffs, or else “it’s going to be hot for them!”
Like Latvia, the Russian gas pipeline has already been cut to Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland. Among other things, flows to Europe are drying up: they fell by 70% in July in a year, according to several experts interviewed by AFP.
In the continent’s capitals, the prospect of cold radiators or shutting down factories haunts governments, aware that Vladimir Putin is strategically deploying energy weapons. As many thermal power plants run on gas, the drop in supply has pushed up the price of gas and consequently, the cost of electricity. However, even oil rose before the recent decline.
According to data from thierrybros.com based on public data (AFP/), Russian gas supplies to the EU-27 and Switzerland
The war triggered “the first truly global energy crisis in history,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). And Europe is “at the center of turmoil.”
Unlike coal (a total ban) and oil (a gradual ban), gas is so important – especially in countries like Germany that depend heavily on its heavy industry – that it is exempt from European sanctions.
– “Thermostat Function” –
Already severely reduced flows on the all-important Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany “will fluctuate between zero and 20% capacity in the coming months, leading to a slowdown in Europe in the winter of 2022/23,” Matt predicted. Oxenford, from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Consumers who heat or cook with gas are being urged to save energy (AFP / MYCHELE DANIAU)
In the event of shortages, authorities prioritize businesses and cut off supplies: In France, as in Germany, governments are tasked with choosing which to sacrifice first.
But consumers who use gas for heating or cooking are being called on to save energy, while Brussels is asking the 27 member states to cut their gas consumption by 15%.
Italy began “thermostat activation” in the spring to reduce heat and air conditioning in schools and administrations. An initiative followed by Spain and Germany.
In the latter country, a campaign was launched to reduce air conditioning, favor public transport or buy a shower head to save on water costs. Many cities have lowered the water temperature of swimming pools or urban lights.
“I save energy,” explains Annette Capan, a 70-year-old retiree I met in Berlin. “I only heat the room I spend time in, nothing freezes in the others.”
– Coal and LNG –
France has blocked regulated gas prices for individuals, but in Germany, household bills will increase by several hundred euros a year.
A map showing the evolution of gas reserves in Europe since 2018, as of August 15 (AFP/
Facing a tough winter, the Consumer Advice Center in North Rhine-Westphalia has never been so busy in its more than 40-year history. “There will be many families who will not be able to pay,” worries Udo Sieverding, its spokesman.
Many are inquiring about installing solar panels, he said. But coal sellers are also in a hurry.
France, for its part, is reviving the “Cosby hunt” of the 1970s: shops using air conditioning are being asked to keep their doors closed.
It is a competition to find alternative energy sources such as highly polluting liquefied natural gas (LNG) or coal.
So France has temporarily abandoned the closure of a coal-fired power plant and wants to install a new floating LNG terminal, a decision contested by environmentalists.
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