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Timmermans: EU countries can delay coal phaseout to avoid Russian gas

Timmermans EU countries delay coal phaseout avoid Russian gas

Photo: Christophe Licoppe / EC - Audiovisual Service

Published

March 7, 2022

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Published:

March 7, 2022

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The European Union’s climate goals are reachable even if some member countries continue to burn coal longer than planned and scrap the plans to temporarily switch to Russian gas, Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said.

The European Commission is preparing a set of measures to reduce the EU’s dependence on gas, oil and coal from Russia and expand sanctions against the country for invading Ukraine. At the same time, the 27-member bloc is facing a major economic blow from the jump of fossil fuel and electricity prices to records.

Only a month ago the EU endorsed natural gas and nuclear power as transitory solutions between ditching coal and getting 100% clean energy. However, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, in charge of the European Green Deal, said Poland and other member states can decide to burn coal for longer than planned and switch directly to renewable energy.

Timmermans: I am confident we can find that soon Russia will be depending on us

“There are no taboos in this situation,” he told the BBC and added such a turn could still be within the parameters set for the energy transition. At the same time, according to Timmermans, the deployment of renewables – wind, solar and geothermal energy – must be accelerated to avert the “mortal danger” of the climate crisis.

The European Commission’s vice-president asserted that “there was a big turn in history” when Russia invaded Ukraine, warranting a response. “Given a correct revision towards renewables, I am confident we can find that soon Russia will be depending on us, and not the other way round,” Timmermans stated.

There is price for consumers to pay

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has just reaffirmed the EU is determined to “get rid of the dependency” on fossil fuels from Russia and said the proposals would be published tomorrow.

However, Timmermans acknowledged there is a cost for consumers with the turnaround in energy policy. “And it’s our responsibility to make sure that that price is paid in an equitable way that we protect our citizens against huge price increases in the energy market,” he stressed.

Germany to invest in coal, gas infrastructure, accelerate green energy deployment

Germany was the first EU country to announce it would set up strategic coal and gas reserves and build two more terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be able to diversify the supply. Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck said the expansion of renewables would be accelerated at the same time to replace fossil fuels.

He said the country may have to “keep coal-powered plants on standby and maybe even let them operate.” The ruling coalition earlier said it would push for a coal phaseout by 2030. As for delaying Germany’s nuclear exit, scheduled for the end of this year, Habeck pointed out no additional nuclear fuel has been secured.

Renewables are “freedom energy,” Germany’s Minister of Finance Christian Lindner said

Minister of Finance Christian Lindner said the government would spend EUR 200 billion in the next four years to cut reliance on Russian gas, with investments earmarked for green energy, electric chargers, hydrogen and the greening of industrial production. He said renewables are “freedom energy.”

Still, there may not be enough gas to go around, as global competition for LNG is strong and Norway is already supplying Europe with gas at full capacity.

Banning Russian energy imports may backfire

While the United States indicated it is willing to ban imports of Russian oil, Lindner, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock warned against more sanctions in the energy sector. Germany covers half of its gas, oil and coal needs from Russia.

Baerbock said the measure wouldn’t be sustainable and that her country and Europe would risk having their “lights go out” while such sanctions wouldn’t “stop the tanks.”

The European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament, has endorsed the initiative to increase the EU’s 2030 target for the share of renewables to 45% from 40%.

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