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AB 2000 studies

Alain Boublil Blog


The energy European challenges

The sanitary crisis had already shown the unsuitability of the European rules in the energy area. The break of several supply chains had provoked tensions on fossil fuels which were, especially in France, passed on power prices. The States had to intervene to protect the purchasing power and the situation of enterprises whose production costs would be weighted down.To that already fragile situation are added now the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia which is one of the main supplier of fossil fuels of Europe. Its exports constitute an essential source of revenue and allow to financing that invasion. So the choice seems to be impossible between going on to be supplied and appearing as the support of this invasion or cancelling, according to the sanctions, the contracts and making Europe, due to the natural gas shortage which will result from that, dumping into a crisis even deeper than the one it has known with the pandemic.That situation results from the incapacity Europe has had until now to define an energy policy adapted to the geopolitical, economic and environment constraints.

An energy policy must meet three objectives, to guarantee the supply safety, to offer the best price conditions for clients and to ensure the energy transition in order to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. Choices in these areas belong to the States but they must comply with the rules incribed in the traities and satisfy the environmental objectives determined by Brussels. Governments to address national policies considerations, have had until now very different visions as it has been shown during the tough debate which has opposed them regarding the European financing of the investments to be made to commit themselves into the energy transition. They can also be confronted with very difficult choices.

Renewables, to the exception of hydraulic ones, are intermittent and it will not exist before a long time technical solutions to remedy to it, despite all the optimistic but low realistic talks regarding storage. Power production being indispensable, it is necessary to have at disposal power production sources able to cope with, as we have seen it in the last autumn in Germany, climate situations generating the stoppage of renewables power production. Even before Ukraine invasion, the rise of natural gas prices and the meteorologic conditions had incited in 2021 power producers to put back into service their coal power plants whose production, for the first time since 2011, went increasing in Europe (+18%). That indisputable reality makes solar and wind farms power true production costs appearing and the necessity to have at disposal alternative sources.

To give a favorable presentation of the competitiveness of these new sources of power production, it had been failed to take into account the guarantee to be brought in any circumstances of the networks feeding. So it is necessary to include in their costs these ones about the investments and the maintenance of the power plants which would produce in the case of the incapacity of the renewables sources. That competitiveness, so frequently put forward might be put into perspective. For the countries which have no nuclear power plants, the choice consists between two bad solutions, to put into operation the coal power plants, with all the consequences  on the emission of greenhouse gas and particles, or the natural gas power plants. Europe, in the last case, would become then more dependant from some producing countries, with in the first position Russia because no investment has been decided with Brussels support to diversify its supply sources and especially to build new terminals dedicated to LNG, which would allow to increasing the suppliers spectrum.

So the clearly paraded priority by the European institutions in favor of renewables and the silence about nuclear have had as consequences to put members-States with Germany in the first position, in front of an impossible choice between remaining dependant of Russia or renouncing to reach the objectives regarding environment. Renewables are not near to constitute an answer to the double challenge of the supply independance and the reduction of the emissions. The solution through the storage of the power and its re-injection in the network when it is needed, is, for a very long time, an illusion. The researchers imagination is without any limit, from the construction of concrete storage-basin under the sea to stock pressured air until the electricity conversion into hydrogene or the utilization of the giant datas centers. But, until now, it has not lead to any credible realization and that would need huge investments, about which it has not been proved that they would be accepted by the concerned populations.

The only non-intermittent alternative, located inside Europe is the nuclear production. But the choice of several European countries to get out of the nuclear production or to exerce pressures on their neighbors in order it closes plants, as that has been the case at Fessenheim, when the Safety Authority had maintained its operating authorization, has never been the purpose of Brussels interventions. At a time when huge resources are spent to increase the use of electricity in transportation or in homes, to renounce to nuclear is equivalent to encourage the recourse to fossil fuels energies  which damage environment and which are imported for a large share from Russia or, which is even worse, to put back in operation coal power plants as it is observed for two years and which will generate a rebound of the CO2 emissions growth, in total contradiction with the announced ambitious objectives. The conversion to electricity in order to de-carbonize activities makes sense only if the power production is, iself, de-carbonized.

The European regulation did not limit itself to show its reserves toward nuclear when it was the purpose of a long hesitation about including this power production source in the invetments programs dedicated to the energy transition. It has forced the French producer to resale at a very low price a growing share of its production to its competitors, which deprives it of the profits it could take from the exploitation of the plants it has built and which heavily weights on its financial situation, at a time when major investments to renew the plants are going to be indispensable. Brussels has also imposed, still in the name of competition, an electricity price fixation mode including the consequences of the natural gas price increases, which forces the States to take in charge a share of these prices increases.

At the same time, in order to looking for alternative solutions to Russian natural gas, the Commission is asking the State-members to join themselves  in the negociations with new suppliers, i.e. to constitute a cartel to avoid  that these demands  provoke another rise of the natural gas quotations. After having installed the principle of the free and not biased competition as the basis of the European economies, it proposes to put into question this principle. It would have been much better since the beginning not to apply it to some essential sectors as the production and the distribution of electricity and natural gas.

So the European Agenda, following these many crisis, is going to be loaded. The rules about public finance, which have become obsolete and which are not anymore respected by the State-members, will have to be adapted. It will also be necessary not to miss the opportunity to build a new common energy policy which will reduce the foreign dependance of the Union and which will allow to fullfill the ambitious objectives adopted to limit the climate warming.     




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