The worst-case scenarios piled up complete nan summertime months. Germany’s economical curate warned of “catastrophic” business shutdowns, fraying proviso chains and wide unemployment. France’s president urged citizens to move down nan heating. Spain asked why countries that hadn’t sewage hooked connected Russian state should bail retired neighbours who had lectured them astir fiscal subject successful nan past.
Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile, gleefully predicted that Europeans would beryllium “freezing successful their homes” because they hadn’t thought done nan consequences of throwing their support down Ukraine. “The acold is coming soon,” he said, menacingly, successful June past year.
But arsenic nan European Union enters nan past period of nan meteorological wintertime successful 2023, signs are becoming clearer that its members person weathered an historical situation – and not conscionable because “General Frost” has proved a milder adversary than Medvedev predicted.
Within 8 months of Russian troops mounting ft connected Ukrainian soil, nan bloc of 27 European states replaced astir 80% of nan earthy state it utilized to tie done pipelines pinch Russia, by quickly building up caller infrastructure for liquid earthy gas, uncovering imaginative ways to thief each different retired amid shortages, and successfully pursuing energy-saving policies.
The Netherlands, for example, nan EU’s largest earthy state producer, had relied connected Russian state for 15-20% of its supplies arsenic it coiled down its immense Groningen field, but doubled its LNG import capacity pinch retention and regasification units successful Rotterdam and Eemshaven.
It utilized nan other capacity to meet home request – which it managed to trim by 22% compared pinch erstwhile years’ averages – and proviso surplus state to nan Czech Republic, Germany and France. As elsewhere, user power prices soared, but were subsidised and capped.
“There was a constituent past autumn erstwhile I worried that immoderate European governments would respond to nan situation by prioritising their ain power supplies and extremity sharing pinch their neighbours, which would person been economically and politically devastating,” said Simone Tagliapietra, an power master astatine nan Brussels-based thinktank Bruegel.
“But Europe managed to debar nan enticement of protectionism and managed to support its soul marketplace intact.”
Gas spot prices dropped to astir €55 a megawatt hr (MWh) connected Monday, a level past seen earlier nan commencement of nan warfare successful September 2021, down from €330/MWh astatine nan extremity of past August.
Over nan people of nan full of past year, state request successful nan European Union was 12% little than nan mean from nan play 2019 to 2021, Bruegel estimates.
Germany, ever destined to carnivore nan brunt of Putin’s state blackmail effort owed to its precocious reliance connected power exports from Russia, managed to usage 14% little state successful 2022 than it had done connected mean successful nan years from 2018 to 2021. It enters February pinch its state retention tanks 80% full, compared pinch 36% astatine this constituent past year.
Even though precocious state prices person taken their toll connected German industry, nan harm has truthful acold not been catastrophic. While GDP successful Europe’s largest system fell by 0.2% from October to December, nan authorities past week improved its forecast for nan coming year, predicting nan recession to beryllium “shorter and milder” than expected.
The Nordic countries were moreover much successful astatine reducing state consumption, pinch Denmark cutting full request – for powerfulness generation, manufacture and home heating – by 24%, Sweden by 36% and Finland by a mighty 47% (although earthy state accounted for only 5% of its wide power needs).
Last summer, immoderate confederate European states had initially signalled reluctance to arsenic stock nan load of power saving. Spain agreed to a 7-8% simplification successful state usage aft arguing that nan azygous 15% target was simply not adjacent connected countries which, for illustration itself, were not heavy limited connected Russian state and that had “done our homework” erstwhile it came to diversifying power supplies.
Yet it didn’t awkward from nan task. In July, nan socialist-led conjugation authorities announced a bid of measures intended to thief trim nan country’s power depletion and its usage of Russian lipid and gas. Many of nan initiatives were based connected thrift and communal sense.
The measures, which will stay successful spot until this November, group strict limits connected aerial conditioning and heating temperatures successful nationalist and ample commercialized buildings.
Under nan decree, heating successful shopping centres, cinemas, theatres, obstruction stations and airports should not beryllium group supra 19C successful wintertime and aerial conditioning should not beryllium group beneath 27C successful summer.
As a result, Spain ended up gathering nan very target to which it had been reluctant to commit: betwixt August and November, nan state reduced its request for earthy state by 15% compared pinch nan level of depletion for nan aforesaid play successful nan past 5 years.
In France, nan energy-saving effort became an uphill struggle because respective cardinal French atomic reactors were undergoing attraction aliases information activity conscionable arsenic they were needed much than ever.
From nan commencement of May to nan extremity of October, astir half of France’s 56 reactors sat idle owed to repair works, turning nan state from Europe’s biggest energy exporter into a nett importer. One of nan countries upping its energy exports to France successful that play was Germany, which successful move imported much state from its occidental neighbour.
After French section officials had prepared contingency plans for nan worst-case script of powerfulness cuts successful December, nan business has stabilised. By mid-January, 73% of France’s atomic fleet was backmost successful operation, helping it to regain its spot arsenic nan EU’s apical exporter of electricity.
When atomic plants struggled, renewables came to nan rescue. According to an study by thinktank Ember Climate, nan European Union successful 2022 drew 22% of its energy from star and upwind power, pinch renewables surpassing state for nan first time.
Remarkably, Sweden, pinch an power operation long-dominated by atomic and hydropower, became Europe’s largest powerfulness exporter successful 2022, trading 20% of its output overseas – successful portion acknowledgment to nan accelerated maturation of onshore wind.
Wind is now Sweden’s third-largest root of energy and scheduled to grow further. Finland’s upwind powerfulness capacity accrued by 75% past twelvemonth alone, allowing nan state to summation power self-sufficiency “at a really bully pace”, officials said.
Plans to grow renewable power accumulation have, successful fact, been radically accelerated by nan power situation successful each 3 Nordic countries, pinch onshore upwind and star powerfulness now forecast to much than double by 2030 and upwind nan ascendant power source.
Ultimately, Vladimir Putin’s power warfare determination will person helped put Sweden connected way to nutrient 65% of its power from renewables by nan extremity of nan decade, Finland 51%, and Denmark 55%.
A twelvemonth of rethinking power supplies has not made Europe cleaner crossed nan bloc. In Poland, which still relies connected ember for overmuch of its heating needs, nan authorities has introduced a ember allowance and stiff energy prices for individual households. After mini and medium-sized businesses were struggling pinch power bills aggregate times nan size of those successful erstwhile years, nan authorities introduced a frost for them.
The situation has meant a slowdown successful plans successful galore countries to shape retired coal, pinch nan rumor slipping further down nan schedule successful Poland, while successful Bulgaria MPs voted precocious to postpone plans to shape retired coal-powered plants.