Different news portals have reported that there are more and more German households in which wood is used for heating, despite the fact that this can have consequences for health and the already deteriorated environment. But, this is part of the outlook for Europe during winter without Russian gas. Let’s see more details.
How important is Russian gas?
According to the report Statistical Review of World Energy, published by British Petroleum (BP), the world’s leading gas producer is the United States with 934 billion cubic meters (23.1% of the world total). Russia is in second place, with 701 billion cubic meters, which is equivalent to 17.4%.
But, here comes some other very important data: Russia ranks first in gas reserves with 38 trillion cubic meters (tcm), about 20% of the total of the proven global stocks; followed by Iran with 32 tcm.
However, the United States is also a world leader in natural gas consumption, with 846 billion cubic meters. In other words, they practically spend what they produce. While Russia’s consumption is “only” 445 billion, leaving a surplus that, of course, they export.
This makes it the largest gas seller on the planet, and its best customer is the European Union: they depend on Russia for 40% of its natural gas, as well as for 27% of oil imports and 46% of coal.
In a report prepared by the EIA (Energy Information Administration), it is revealed that Europe is the destination of 72% of Russia’s gas exports, with Germany (16%), Italy (12%), France (8%), the Netherlands (5%), Austria (5%), Poland (4%) and the United Kingdom (4%) standing out.
War, energy and prices
Shortly after the start of the war, in February 2022, Biden banned imports of Russian oil, gas and coal. This measure was supported by the United Kingdom, coming into effect at the end of this same year.
In turn, the European Council urged member states to save gas and store it for a winter that has already begun, committing to reduce the consumption of this fuel by 15%, for a period of about six months (August 2022 to March 2023).
In response to international sanctions imposed in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine, Russia began to cut gas supplies to Europe. For example, in September, the Russian state-owned company Gazprom announced that they would reduce the flow of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which supplies to Germany.
Then the supply to Poland and Bulgaria was suspended, due to the fact that these countries refused to pay for gas in rubles. By the way, the price of this and other fuels has increased throughout Europe, which led to an increase in electricity services. In the UK this increase reached up to 80%.
Alternatives to gas heating
For all these reasons, the winter in Europe, without Russian gas, will be colder. It is anticipated that in Germany the natural gas deficit will be about 30 %. This has forced the adoption of various measures, including rationing and redistribution, and regulation of thermostats (from 22 to 17 degrees), among other measures.
And it is that, in addition to being used to generate electricity (15%) and in the industry (20%), natural gas is the main fuel for heating homes in the European Union. It is estimated that 40% is allocated for this purpose. That is, almost half of the 450 million inhabitants of the Union use or used gas heating.
But, this winter in Europe, without Russian gas, some things have started to change. In Germany, one of the most dependent countries, and therefore most affected, people have decided to provide their homes with electric heating. Throughout 2022, almost one million of these devices have been sold, according to data from the portal Deutsche Welle.
Now, this alternative has its disadvantages, compared to gas. First of all, gas is more efficient: it produces more heat with less energy. Then, the electricity consumption will increase, and since the tariff increased, the cost of the bill can become exorbitant.
In addition, in the event of a power outage, the electrical equipment will stop working. Even when there are many such devices turned on at the same time, there could be a power surge, recharging the system and causing failures.
On the other hand, due to the fear caused by the eventual shortage of gas, some German households have taken a leap into the past, turning to traditional firewood systems for heating, which can have health consequences (allergies and respiratory diseases), as well as the impact on the environment (more pollution).
The solution is not easy. There are pros and there are cons. But, no one wants to freeze to death. And winter has already come to Europe; Russian gas has gone or is missing, little by little. At the moment, there is no solution in sight to the conflict in Ukraine, which has brought so many consequences, even for those not directly involved.
Will Europe survive the winter without Russian gas?
The human being managed to survive the ice age, in even more difficult conditions than the current ones. Europe will spend the winter without part of Russian gas, but there are alternatives. However, it is possible that the cold will take its toll, especially among the most deprived sectors, as we already read in the news.
Europe’s break with Russian gas is not yet complete. But it might be after the winter passes. Measures are already being announced to achieve energy independence from Moscow by 2030.
The European Union is considering a two-thirds reduction in Russia’s gas demand, as they feel they cannot trust a supplier that threatens them. On the other hand, the conflict in Ukraine has underlined the need to accelerate the use of alternative sources to produce heat and electricity, which would help reduce the consumption of imported gas and oil.So, in the long run, maybe the conflict will bring something good: clean energies to decontaminate our battered planet.