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Renewables EU kicks off EUSEW: sustainable energy is key to overcome energy crisis

Every kilowatt-hour produced with renewable energy is not only insurance against rising energy prices but it helps reduce the European Union’s dependency on imports of fossil fuels, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the opening of the EU Sustainable Energy Week – EUSEW.

The root of the current energy crisis is not in too much energy transition but too little, according to speakers at the kickoff event for the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW). European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the upcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 would be “a moment of truth” and that current climate commitments are “not enough” to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The energy transition is at the heart of the European Green Deal as the energy system is responsible for 75% of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions, she asserted. “We need to decarbonize Europe’s energy mix,” Von der Leyen added and stressed that every kilowatt-hour produced with renewable energy is “not only insurance against rising energy prices but it helps reduce the European Union’s dependency on imports of fossil fuels.”

EU must reduce its dependency on fossil fuel imports

The European Green Deal is the world’s “most advanced blueprint to reduce emissions,” in her words. “We will make sure that the energy we use is clean,” Von der Leyen said and claimed the EU is “on track” to achieve the set goals.

The head of the European Commission pointed out the economy is “extremely vulnerable to price fluctuations” as it depends on oil imports for 97% of its oil, compared to 44% for coal and 90% for gas. “We will propose targets that reflect our ambition because only what gets measured gets done,” Von der Leyen stated.

The jump in energy prices “is basically a rise in gas prices,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said

The steep global rise in energy prices “is basically a rise in gas prices” as supply lags behind demand but production costs in the renewable energy sector are stable, she pointed out. Von der Leyen said the introduction of clean hydrogen is “a perfect way to help reach climate neutrality and help to clean up some of the most polluting industries” like aluminum, steel and heavy goods transportation.

The EU and the developed world have the responsibility to support “the least developed and most vulnerable countries” and “help them adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions,” she underscored.

Surge in energy prices may impact economic recovery

European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson said the EU’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 is “like a lighthouse” for citizens, industry and stakeholders to reach climate neutrality by the middle of the century.  “That’s especially important when the sea is stormy,” she asserted and pointed to the latest surge in energy prices, warning that it may impact the economic recovery from the pandemic.

Most EU member states oppose the annual savings target of 1.5% per year of final energy consumption

The European Commission will come up with a proposal by the end of the year to decarbonize the gas market and establish a new market for clean hydrogen, Simson added.

Minister of Infrastructure of Slovenia Janez Vrtovec said that he is an optimist with regard to alternatives for the way of life despite the challenges in the energy sector worldwide. Most EU member states oppose the annual savings target of 1.5% per year of final energy consumption and more discussions are necessary on individual heating and cooling targets for individual countries, he noted.

Slovenia holds the presidency of the Council of the EU until the end of the year.

Current climate change consequences are only beginning

“We are stuck in a fossil economy. The consequences – the heat waves, the floods and the forest fires, are already here. And we know if we don’t cut greenhouse gas emissions drastically, we have seen only the beginning. Science is crystal clear on that,” member of European Parliament Niels Fuglsang said. He is also the rapporteur for the review of the Energy Efficiency Directive.

Fuglsang said average temperatures over the last five-year period were the highest on record. He reminded the viewers of the online event that the European Parliament initially voted to introduce measures to cut emissions by 60% by the end of the decade. The EU and rich countries “need to do more” on a global scale to increase the targets and make them binding, he said.

An increase in energy efficiency of 1% would result in a cut in a cut in gas imports of 2.6%, Fuglsang stressed.

Rich countries need to do more to increase targets and make them binding

First Vice-President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Jürgen Rigterink said the climate pledges of individual countries of the world are insufficient to meet the goal from the Paris Agreement to hold global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees. Scaling up renewable energy is essential to the low-carbon transition, in his view.

Rigterink said annual wind capacity additions need to at least triple by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency, and that solar must increase nearly five times to stay on track.


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