The prices for energy in Europe are getting out of control. For many, this is coming at the worst possible time: Summer is over, temperatures are dropping, and heating is about to become the biggest driving force in energy use on the continent.
A combination of factors has coalesced to create a perfect storm for Europe. Bottlenecks in both natural gas and coal production are causing issues hitting energy targets, causing the continent to experience extremely high prices as demand outstrips supply. Since coal is being phased out in Europe, many countries are switching to natural gas as an in-between energy source while renewables like solar and wind power are rolled out properly.
This situation is further exacerbated by a massively increased demand for energy as localities ease restrictions imposed months ago and many Europeans return to their normal lives. Additionally, adverse weather conditions across much of Europe have resulted in notably lower production for both solar and wind energy, a rare circumstance that is greatly constraining energy supply.
This means that increases in the price of natural gas get felt most prominently in regions that have largely pivoted away from coal in recent years. The price of natural gas is up as much as 360% in some parts of the continent, leaving many homes unable to keep up with the expenses. All of this threatens to erase the economic recovery the continent has seen in the past 12 months, leading many to call on lawmakers to do something about this situation.
France has agreed to send out one-time payments of 100 Euros to nearly 6 million low-income homes in the country to help cover the expenses. Spain’s government, meanwhile, has promised citizens that it will work to bring prices back down to levels last seen in 2018.
Spain’s government even went as far as sending an open letter to Brussels to ask for legislation from the EU to address the growing crisis. “We urgently need a European policy menu pre-designed to react immediately to dramatic price surges,” reads Spain’s plea.
However, it’s unclear what, if anything, Brussels can actually do about the situation. Reserves of natural gas are at a worrying low in the EU, and much of the continent’s gas is piped in from outside of its own borders. If this winter proves to be another bitterly cold season, things could become dire in Europe. Governments are being urged to take steps now to prepare for the worst.