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Europe recognizes that it will have to burn more coal to reduce its dependence on Russian energy


A document outlining the Commission’s objectives for the REPowerEU plan was released on Wednesday, highlighting the importance of energy savings, diversifying energy imports and accelerating what it called the “European transition to clean energy”.

In total, the European Commission expects additional investments of 210 billion euros between 2022 and 2027.

With regard to the share of renewables in the EU energy mix, the Commission has proposed raising the current target of 40% by 2030 to 45%.

The Commission’s proposals came on the same day that the governments of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium said they would target a combined target of at least 65 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030. By the middle of the century, they are aiming for a capacity of of 150 GW.

With regard to fossil fuels, the situation is difficult.

Russia was the EU’s largest supplier of both oil and natural gas last year, according to Eurostat.

The EU’s desire to move away from Russian hydrocarbons following Ukraine’s invasion of Ukraine means it will have to find oil and gas from other parts of the world to cover supply shortages.

The commission said investments of 1.5 to 2 billion euros would be needed to secure the oil supply.

Approximately € 10 billion will be needed to import enough liquefied natural gas and pipeline from other sources by 2030.

All of the above comes at a time when the EU has said it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050.

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In the medium term, it wants to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, under the “Fit for 55” plan.

The commission said REPowerEU could not function without what it called “a speedy implementation of all Fit for 55 proposals and higher targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency”.

In this new reality, gas consumption in the EU “would decrease at a faster rate, limiting the role of gas as a transition fuel,” the commission said.

“However, the abandonment of Russian fossil fuels will also require targeted investments in security of gas supply and very limited changes to the oil infrastructure, along with large-scale investments in the electricity grid and a hydrogen backbone. “He added.

“At the same time, some of the existing coal capacity could also be used more than initially expected, with a role for nuclear energy and domestic gas resources,” the commission said.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, EU Climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans acknowledged that using less natural gas in a transitional phase would mean that “you could use more coal – that’s what a negative impact on your emissions. “

“But if, at the same time, as we set out to do, you are rapidly accelerating the introduction of renewable sources – solar, wind, biomethane – then you will have the opposite move,” he said.

Timmermans, who is the executive vice president of the European Commission for the European Green Deal, went on to stress the importance of finding a middle ground.

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“If we can really do what I say – reduce our energy consumption in combination with a faster introduction of renewable sources – we will reduce our emissions even faster than before. And then, of course, we will have slightly higher emissions if people use more coal, but we need to strike a balance so that we don’t increase our emissions in general – hopefully we will reduce them even more, “he said. .

Coal has a substantial effect on the environment, with Greenpeace describing it as “the dirtiest and most polluting way to produce energy”.

At the same time, the US Energy Intelligence Administration lists a range of emissions from burning coal, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.

The European Commission’s announcement has drawn criticism from several environmental organizations.

“These plans should speed up the transition to clean energy – but the European Commission’s latest strategy goes hand in hand. The so-called REPowerEU contains useful and necessary progress towards renewable solutions, but allows for almost 50 fossil fuel infrastructure projects and extensions at once, ”said Eilidh Robb, an anti-fossil fuel activist at Friends of the Earth Europe.

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