EU plan to boost renewables away from Russian fossil fuels will help fight climate change, experts say

In an effort to end the import of Russian fossil fuels by 2027, the European Commission will boost the production and efficiency of renewable energy, according to a Bloomberg News report, a move that experts say could benefit the fight to control climate change.

On May 18, the executive branch of the European Union will propose to increase its clean energy target for 2030 from 40% of its total energy production to 45%, and will also require member states to reduce energy consumption by 13 % over the course of the decade, above the 9% decline currently required.

European energy and international climate policy experts say these moves, while only resulting in a small reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, are part of a positive shift away from reliance on fossil fuels. fossils.

Wind turbines compete with a coal power plant near Erkelenz, Germany

Wind turbines compete with a coal-fired power plant near Erkelenz, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

“In the long term, it will be beneficial for emissions and cost,” Ana Maria Jaller-Makarewicz, energy analyst for Europe at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told Yahoo News. “We cannot continue with this volatile market.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting price increase, Jaller-Makarewicz said, “has shown Europe how volatile the price and supply of gas is.”

Jaller-Makarewicz and others have warned that while Europe hopes to boost its clean energy goals, it is also making plans to replace Russian natural gas with liquefied natural gas, or LNG, from the United States and the Middle East. Since LNG has a higher carbon footprint than conventional gas due to the energy demands of liquefaction and transportation, that will offset some of the climate benefits of clean energy and efficiency improvements.

But experts also point out that the EU is trying to avoid committing to block infrastructure and long-term fossil fuel supplies that would prevent it from meeting its goal of cutting carbon emissions enough to avert catastrophic climate change. For example, Reuters reported earlier this week that Germany is having trouble negotiating a deal to buy LNG from Qatar because Qatar wants a commitment that lasts at least 20 years. Germany hopes to reduce its emissions by 88% by 2040, so it intends to no longer need imported natural gas for power and heating in the next two decades.

“The reality is more positive, but it’s a bit mixed,” Jake Schmidt, senior strategic director for international climate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Yahoo News. “The EU is trying to move away from Russian gas fairly quickly, but as a result it is not scrapping its climate goals, which is good. So what they’re looking at is: ‘How could we build infrastructure in the short term to switch our gas supplies?’ They’re trying to do that in a way that doesn’t limit them to infrastructure that has no long-term climate value.”

PCK Oil Refinery

The German PCK refinery, majority owned by the Russian energy company Rosneft, processes oil from Russia through the Druzhba pipeline. (Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images)

European nations are doing this in two ways, Schmidt said: They’re leaning toward building floating LNG import terminals offshore, less permanent than onshore structures, and they’re trying to build them so they can go out of use. for LNG to hydrogen in the future.

“They clearly recognize, both in the short and long term, [the need] to double down on their climate strategy,” Schmidt said. It takes two to five years to build an LNG import terminal, which is longer than building a new wind or solar farm.

Currently, oil and gas consumers around the world are paying record prices. As well as cutting emissions and taking money out of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war chest at a time when he has invaded Ukraine and threatens other countries in Europe, the EU believes its upcoming energy transition plan will save consumers money on gasoline. Bloomberg reported that its sources estimated total annual savings of €80bn on gas, €12bn on oil and €1.7bn on coal.

However, skeptics may worry that renewable energy mandates will increase the price of electricity. Wind and solar are becoming more cost-competitive with gas and cheaper than coal, but some studies have shown that renewable energy portfolio standards increase energy prices by forcing utilities to to invest in new wind and solar installations before investing in existing coal or gas power. otherwise, the plants would need to be replaced.

High fuel prices at a Shell petrol station in Wales

High petrol prices, seen here at a Shell station in Wales, are hitting consumers in the UK hard. (Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

However, most experts are confident that falling prices and other measures being taken in Europe, such as the simplification of renewable energy permitting processes, will make the EU’s plan to increase renewable energy actually cheaper than importing increasingly expensive fossil fuels.

“It’s an important step in finally completing this transition that they’re trying to accomplish as quickly as possible to get off fossil fuels and dependency entirely,” Pete Ogden, vice president for energy, climate and environment at the United Nations Foundation, he told Yahoo News. “They are going to find the alternatives increasingly attractive economically.”

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