Alright hear me out, this is my first article and I have no experience in typing out my own thoughts. I usually enjoy debating with friends and colleagues in an interactive way so this might not come out as I envision it in my head. Follow along and see for yourself!
War and gas supply to the EU
Europe is at war, 2022 could have been an interesting year after the whole Covid-19 pandemic, however the shit hit the fan, obviously. Russia invaded Ukraine and everyone understandably got pissed.
With NATO being the kind of superpower at force keeping the Russian superpower at bay, a conventional war will probably NEVER happen again: nobody wants a nuclear war to break out, that would be the end of humanity as mutual assured destruction (MAD) is actually a thing.
What we end up with, are nations sanctioning each other and making the opposing force pay for their actions with money. Obviously you can’t just give nations a ticket for any amount of money, so the tactics used are to enact embargos, confiscation of goods and assets, bans and so on (you can look them up for yourself).
One measure that was enacted by Russia was to reduce/cut natural gas to the EU. This might not seem too alarming at first, but when you consider that Russian gas makes up for 40% of EU’s import you can see how this goes down south pretty fast.
Heating… a double edged sword
Or perhaps even triple edged sword if that’s even possible…
See, outside of a few “lucky” countries in the southern most part of Europe, most countries experience pretty cold winter months. Cold enough that heating is required.
Here is how Europeans heat their homes:
The figures were pretty hard to find, though they were exactly what I expected them to be.
As you see, gas is the leading energy source followed by oil right after and making up for 54% of the energy consumption needed to keep those homes warm and cozy in the winter.
With Russia shutting down its gas lines and leaving the EU without the needed energy, prices will (and already have) soar. Most people will not even realize it until it’s too late, not that it would really matter though because one can’t simply swap out their heating system without investing a lot of money.
Oil is also a problem because the EU imports most of its oil from Russia, and with their plan to drop imports by 90%, there are going to be significant price increases in the foreseeable future
These alone are going to be a real pain the ass to deal with, however there is a third player joining the mess: heat pumps!
Without going into great details, heat pumps are these amazing things that we’re supposed to use when building a new house and/or renovating our heating systems… And they indeed kinda are. They are extremely efficient and if they’re coupled with good house insulation they are a true blessing. However they run on electricity…
The “green” wave
Here we go… Electricity, this magical thing that travels through powerlines, reaches every home and powers anything you want and that everyone considers green as fuck!
- Get an electric car! 0 CO2 emissions.
- Install a heat pump! 0 CO2 emissions.
- Cool your house with AC in the summer! 0 CO2 emissions.
Or is it?
See, the problem is that electricity does not really simply exist. It has to be produced, and this is where it all goes to hell.
Energy production in Europe varies quite a lot, however when looking at the EU alone and in general, this is the breakdown:
Out of this list, the following sources do not produce CO2 emissions:
So depending on the source of electricity, consuming it is actually bad for the environment.
In the most recent 10 years, Germany has worked hard to get rid of nuclear energy, the green party is especially against it, more can be read about it here.
As much as people would want wind and solar to be the next energy source, it’s impossible to achieve that result anytime soon (if ever), so for the next few years at least, we’ll continue seeing nuclear and fossil fuels dominating the charts.
Germany and its love for coal
Germany is set to retire all nuclear power by the end of 2022 and this is their energy production breakdown in Q1 2022:
So guess what: nuclear is going away and natural gas is lacking due to the war. that’s 19% of the energy production that Germany will struggle to produce.
So lo and behold: Germany will power up some of its coal power plants to make ends meet
Quoting the above article:
that would increase Germany’s dependence on coal for electricity generation by up to a third.
More countries are set to see similar trends as the war progresses and this is truly depressing
Alright, I spent way too much time writing this post, time to draw some personal conclusions.
Electricity demand is set to go up as more and more people switch to electric cars and heat pumps. With the pandemic (hopefully) over, people will resume their normal lives and will consume more energy than in the past 3 years; demand for energy will keep increasing yet the supply has been drastically cut.
“Green” energy is far from becoming reality, and I’m pretty certain it will never be enough to be a reliable baseload.
Without Russian gas and oil, with the current skepticism of nuclear energy and with the lack of time to properly adapt to this situation, the EU will see energy costs skyrocket.
Demand for electricity might not be met, if anything goes wrong (for example if another French nuclear power plant were to have an outage or if Russia further reduced its gas supply) rolling (or even unplanned) blackouts could become an every day reality.
Transportation will continue increasing in cost, inflation will further influence costs.
Food and goods will increase in cost due to all issues combined.
Till next time!
I hope I’m being too pessimistic here, I hope the war ends ASAP and that things will turn out for the better. I hope this energy crisis will be a wake up call for nuclear deniers because we need all the clear energy we can get to stop emitting all this CO2 and to lead better lives.
Only time will tell.