What should the EU do to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels?

According to the draft proposals obtained by the FinancialTimesthe European Union is set to ease environmental regulations to replace Russian fossil fuels with renewables and imported hydrogen.

The project calls for the acceleration of wind and solar projects without the need for an environmental impact assessment in the 27 EU member states.

“Long and complex administrative procedures are a major obstacle to investments in renewable energy and its related infrastructure,” according to the project. Fast-track clearance in designated “destination” areas without an environmental impact assessment could “result in the occasional death or disturbance of birds and other protected species”, it added.

EU countries continue to import Russian energy despite the US ban. Europe’s reliance on Russian imports prompted lawmakers to propose a ban and find alternative sources. Hungary and Germany expressed concern about the possibility of the new embargo policies due to their heavy reliance on Russian energy.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated the EU’s transition to renewable energy. The goal is to cut emissions by at least half by 2030 and zero carbon emissions by 2050.

On Tuesday, Frans Timmermans, European Commission vice-president for the Green Deal, said imported hydrogen could replace the natural gas used by European industrial countries, which mainly source natgas from Russia.

“It is essential not only to reduce our carbon footprint, but also to maintain the competitiveness of our economy. We need a new source of energy for sectors that are difficult to reduce. And hydrogen is that energy source “, said Timmermans.

He added that the EU could produce 40% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. FT says the plan will be released next week and could set a much higher target. It calls for a 30% increase in the rate of construction of renewable projects.

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“Given the unprecedented geopolitical situation created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and high energy prices, it is clear that coordinated and urgent action is needed to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy” , indicates the document.

In a separate project, the European Commission has set strict guidelines for green hydrogen by electrolysis, as its production includes the use of fossil fuels. Hydrogen can only be considered green if it returns as much renewable electricity as it consumes during its production.

As for easing the green standards project to replace Russian fossil fuels, focusing on wind and solar projects is not sustainable. The UK found out the hard way last autumn when the wind stopped blowing and its turbines shut down. Here’s another problem: what happens when the sun doesn’t shine? For the EU not to focus on expanding nuclear power generation seems silly.

Additionally, the ability to build massive wind and solar farms takes months or even years, and buying turbines and panels in a world with strained supply chains could increase the duration of projects.

Europe’s transition from Russian fossil fuels is not going to be smooth. Germany is already Warning of a tsunami of bankruptcies if the EU goes ahead with an embargo.


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