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The Last Call Before the New Energy Crisis - Yaren Öztürk

REPowerEU, the plan published by the European Commission in recent months, which includes measures to reduce Europe's dependence on fossil fuels does not seem to be enough. The plan promises affordable, secure and sustainable energy for Europe. In the short term, it seeks alternatives to gas, oil and coal. In the long term, it aims to accelerate the green transformation across Europe and invest heavily in renewable energy. At the same time, the plan calls for people, businesses, and organizations to take matters into their own hands and save energy. Its implementation in Europe is likely to be painful. These days temperatures in Europe are at their highest levels, the implementation of the plan is becoming more complex, and governments have started to publish measures one by one.

The main reason for Europe's measures is that if the Kremlin orders a complete cut-off of gas from Russia, Europe will experience one of its coldest winters with a deficit of about 45 billion cubic meters between August and March, which is about 15% of the gas consumed by European Union member states almost every year. While the effects will not be the same everywhere in Europe, for now, they are preparing for the worst-case scenario of a large-scale energy crisis. In Germany and Italy, two countries most dependent on Russian gas, the effects of a gas cut-off would be felt most strongly in industry and production and affect home heating. The consequences would not be as severe in Finland and Sweden, where gas consumption is a small fraction of energy consumption. Before examining what measures countries are taking, it is essential to note that the European Union's gas reserves are behind the target. Although the target for November 1 is 80%, the reserves are currently 77% full. The extent to which the European Union, which claims that it will reduce its gas demand by 15% by March, will be able to achieve this under the current conditions is among the debates.

On a country-by-country basis, although France is a European country that meets 70% of its energy needs from nuclear energy, it aims to reduce its energy consumption by 10% in the next two years. France, which published a draft energy saving plan last month, announced that it would prohibit the doors of heating and air conditioning units from being left open, and those who leave them open will be fined €750. It is also on the agenda to ban heaters or air conditioners in outdoor places such as bars, cafes and terraces. In addition, the government has stated that it aims to restrict the use of illuminated advertising signs between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. in every city in the country. For now, the measure applies to cities with less than 800,000, which critics say is insufficient.

On the other hand, Germany is perhaps the most vocal advocate of energy conservation in Europe but has yet to devise an effective plan. Among the regulations that will become law in August, the government has warned against heating rooms on public property and in companies where people do not spend much time, such as corridors or large halls. Many cities and state governments in Germany have already taken measures such as reducing street lighting and lamps or setting temperature limits in buildings. These measures have been criticized by critics who say that due to reduced street lighting, people will feel less safe and will not want to go out at night. Italy, which has said it does not have a plan for now and is discussing similar measures as Germany, aims to reduce 7% of its gas demand by March by increasing coal-fired generation.

In Poland, where Russia has cut off gas supplies, political debates about how this winter will be spent. Critics say the people have been left to their own devices regarding how to heat their homes, and the government has called for insulation while critics talk of a coal shortage scenario. Greece, one of our neighbouring countries, has recently announced a plan called "Operation Thermostat". The plan calls for reducing energy consumption by 10% this year and 30% by 2030. Windows and cooling systems in public buildings are being renovated to increase energy efficiency. It is also essential that air conditioners in public properties are not set at temperatures lower than 27 degrees Celsius in summer, and that company employees do not leave their computers on at the end of the day. Spain, which is not highly dependent on Russian gas but has taken the most radical decisions, aims to reduce its gas consumption by 7% by March. Government decisions that have been the focus of criticism are that businesses and public spaces must keep the air conditioning at 27 degrees in summer and 19 degrees in winter. With Spain facing a heatwave across the country, there are questions about how this decision will be implemented. The decree, which will be in force until November 2023, includes the obligation for shops to close their doors when their heating systems are running, followed by installing automatic locks and switching off shop window lights at 22.00 at the latest. The situation of failure to comply will result in fines ranging from €60,000 for minor infringements to €100 million for severe offences.

As 2022 gets closer to an end, in a world plagued by epidemics, climate crises, water security and still war, powerful governments are trying to insulate themselves from the coming crises. While a series of decisions are being lined up in perhaps the last exit before the energy crisis, how feasible the measures are and how adequate the decisions are will be deeply felt in Europe next winter.


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