''Winter is coming'' for Europeans. The continent is dealing with high electricity bills, thanks to Russia messing around Europe's natural gas supplies. So Europe is taking action to cut down on energy demand by power rationing, cutting down lights at historic monuments, turning to coal for power, and also levying taxes on oil companies to pass their profits to customers.
Why is there an energy crisis in Europe? The last six months have been tough for the world, especially Europe, as it has been dealing with the Ukraine war, spiraling energy costs due to inflation and extreme heat waves. You might remember how UK was literally melting in July 2021 as forest fires spread across neighborhoods and traffic posts melted due to heat waves.
But now that ''winter is coming'', Europe is approaching another nightmarish time. European winters are known for being brutal to humans. But this year, the additional financial costs might make it worse.
Europe depends on Russia for 40% of its total natural gas and this need is met by the Nordic pipeline from Russia to Germany. This pipeline helps Europe in every aspect of their life: from cooking in homes to firing power stations. But when Russia turned off its main natural gas pipeline to Germany to retaliate against Europe's sanctions, it disrupted the gas supply, which led natural gas prices to shoot up by 300%.
This change in supply has also led to Europe buying a lot of fossil fuel resources like oil and coal from the global markets, thus raising global prices for coal.
Energy bills are up 3% in France, 30% in Germany and 300% in the UK - other government’s have a grip of this. And the EU has a plan to reduce energy use by 15% - while we have minsters saying it’s an individual choice….doing less than nothing.— Dale Vince (@DaleVince) August 26, 2022
That's not even the worst part. The reduced gas flow into Europe not only disrupted the present usage conditions but has also affected the fuel storage that Europe normally prepares for before winter hits. Since demand for power is highest during winters, Europe counts on its 'pre-winter' gas supply to stock up on natural gas. But given the fact that Russia is messing around with its natural gas supply, Europe is taking action to save energy. If Russia does cut off its gas supply, Europe will enter recession and thus will begin the phase of ''deindustrialization''.
Protests in Europe against rising energy bills:
“The entire Wenceslas Square demands the resignation of the government! We will demand that the current cabinet, which is working against us, resign”: A 70,000-strong rally was held in Prague Also demand lower gas and electricity prices and neutrality on the conflict in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/dDGJb650yM— Dagny Taggart (@DagnyTaggart369) September 3, 2022
The government's inability to do anything about rising energy bills has led to people gathering and protesting in several European nations. While one could not see the roads at Prague's famous Wenceslas Square, protestors burnt their electricity bills in Germany, Naples Sweden, and the UK.
Massive protests all over Europe asking respective governments to leave #NATO, the EU & skyrocketing energy prices. https://t.co/1CTyBFeheS— Sabria Chowdhury Balland (@sabriaballand) September 5, 2022
So what is Europe doing?
1. Power rationing: European nations are setting new power-saving targets and new limits on energy consumption so that they don't ''waste energy''.
Greece has told the public sector institutions to switch off lights or face dire consequences like withdrawal of government funding to energy firms.
2. Passing on profits of energy companies to struggling consumers: Europe will levy an “exceptional and temporary” levy on companies in the oil, gas, coal and refinery industries based on their extra profits.
3. Capping excessive revenues of non-gas companies: Companies that produce power from sources other than gas (like renewable energy, lignite or nuclear energy) will have to limit their electricity prices. Cap will be set at a level to avoid “jeopardizing the availability and profitability of existing plants” and investments.
4. Eiffel Tower lights to go out at 11.45pm: France's Eiffel Tower is currently lit with those sparkly romantic lights till 1 am. But the extravagant lighting might be shut off by 11.45 pm going forward. Similar moves have been made in Germany's 'Victory Column' and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
5. Coal makes a comeback: Europe's heatwaves have caused water levels to go down in reservoirs, thus causing a shortfall in hydropower. So Europeans have been shifting to expensive coal to maintain energy supplies. Over the last year, there has been a 20% increase in coal usage as countries like Germany, Italy the Netherlands, Spain and the UK have had to look for alternatives.
6. Rationing hot water: Landlords in Germany have started rationing hot water and turning down the temperatures of their outdoor pools. Some have even started dimming street lights after 11 pm to save energy. Germans have been encouraged to cut down on shower times from 10 minutes to 5 minutes.