Accelerating investments in 100% renewable energies and conditioning homes is key to definitively abandoning the consumption of fossil fuels.

Accelerating investments in 100% renewable energies and conditioning homes is key to definitively abandoning the consumption of fossil fuels.

Accelerating investments in 100% renewable energies and conditioning homes is key to definitively abandoning the consumption of fossil fuels.

COP26 and the gas crisis

It is surprising and even grotesque that the same governments that attend the COP26 in Glasgow to proclaim their concern about climate change and announce promises to reduce emissions to combat it, do not have the slightest embarrassment in rushing to ensure the supply of fossil gas in the face of energy price crisis that has broken out.

Why is this double game allowed? What is the common background of the climate and energy crises that our governments seem to ignore?

Both crises are undeniable and their consequences are potentially devastating. The scientific community has repeatedly warned that in order to avoid disastrous climate change, which will occur if we are unable to contain global warming within the limit of 1.5ºC, the entire world has to bring its emissions to zero by mid-century, with special importance and responsibility for developed countries and what we do in the short term, before 2030. Since the main cause of emissions is the burning of fossil fuels, it is clear that this reduction in emissions will only be possible with a abandoning dependence on these fuels. That seemingly obvious conclusion should be one of those reached at the Glasgow summit.

The energy price crisis can not be ignored either. Gas rises, and consequently electricity rises, and at the same time oil rises and with it gasoline and diesel. The right to energy, never recognized and even less guaranteed, is threatened by this crisis that looms, above all, like the climate crisis, on people and communities with fewer resources. It is also evident that there is a responsibility of our rulers to protect the population this threat and prevent the scourge of energy poverty from spreading.

The common factor of both crises is gas, misnamed natural, but fossil in the end. The time has come to recognize gas as a problem and seek solutions that break with dependence on this source of energy, leaving behind outdated concepts such as ‘bridge’ energy. Without acknowledging the problem, the solution cannot be found.

And it is that for years, the fossil fuel industry has been promoting the false idea that gas is a bridging fuel. But it is this alleged bridge that has led us directly to the current gas price crisis.

The fossil fuel industry has been promoting the misconception that gas is a bridging fuel

In 2019, 30 million Europeans lived in a situation of energy poverty. That before the pandemic and the current price crisis. But it’s not those people who decided to rely too heavily on fossil gas, and they’re not the ones who should bear the brunt of that mistake.

The situational action must not be confused with the structural response, and the first cannot go in the opposite direction to the second. Nor should the need to protect people be confused with the strategy of corporations to consolidate the current energy system.

Our governments have a responsibility to ensure that no home will be without power supply this winter. And at the same time, for that protection to be viable in the long term, they must significantly accelerate plans to fully decarbonize the energy system and must stop all investments in new fossil gas infrastructure.

Short term, vulnerable households need support. The prohibition of supply cuts to those who cannot pay must be maintained and the right to a basic energy supply for all people must be recognized, with social tariffs for those who need them.

Also, self-consumption should be generalizedbecause it is the way to guarantee an economical and stable electricity supply, and it makes no sense that it seems to be only within the reach of the richest, when there are more and more financing schemes available to save from the first day without having to make an outlay Initial: its benefits must be made known to everyone, especially to neighboring communities, and administrative barriers must be eliminated so that anyone can opt for self-consumption without a minority of neighbors being able to veto it.

The price signal must hold, so that the cost of energy is proportional to consumption, especially at the most critical times for the system, so that savings, efficiency, demand management and self-consumption are increasingly economically beneficial. And access to recovery funds must be made available to all households that need it to Energetically condition homes.

This crisis calls for innovation, and it is time for the EU to introduce measures to reduce global energy demand. Large industrial energy users should be the first to receive signals for demand reduction; they must play a role in leveling demand so that the bulk of the responsibility for navigating this crisis does not fall on vulnerable households this winter.

In the longer term, European leaders must show their resolve and recognize the need to move further and faster towards full decarbonisation as the ultimate solution to the climate and energy crises.

European leaders must show their resolve and recognize the need to move further and faster towards full decarbonisation

There will be no shortage of populist proclamations, nothing foreign to the vested interests of large energy corporations, who will try to blame this crisis on the energy transition, when it is just the opposite. Renewable technologies (which are already the cheapest), electrification, smart grids and better storage will protect us from this type of crisis in the future.

There is also another deeper debate that emerges: Is there not enough energy for the current consumption level? This question is often answered wrongly because it is confused with the question: is there not enough energy for the future level of consumption? And of course, we know that infinite growth is impossible.

But it is important to explain that for the current level (and future up to a certain limit) there is enough renewable energy, what there is is no planet that can withstand that energy being extracted from fossil sources: the most pressing limit is that of global warming , that we must limit to 1.5 ºCas committed in the Paris Agreement to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Of course there is enough renewable energy to replace all fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and we have shown it: a efficient, intelligent and 100% renewable energy system not only is it feasible, but it is the lowest cost option, and would cut energy demand in half. But logically, for that energy to be available, you have to invest in starting up facilities (power) that capture it and transform it into useful final energy.

To this end, it is important that they be designated, with an executive nature, suitable locations so that those generation facilities that they cannot be in the same place as the demand are located where the environmental cost is minimum and the social benefit is maximum, which should not be very complicated, bearing in mind that with less than 1% of the European territory it could be covered with renewables 100% of the electricity demand.

Those who do not want us to abandon the old nuclear-fossil system are the ones most interested in making people believe that there is no possible alternative, and they have dedicated resources for years to propagating their libels, as we have seen again with the recent scandal of the amendments from several countries to the IPCC report so that it does not include the abandonment of fossil fuels. But now even the International Energy Agency defends that it is no longer necessary to invest in fossil fuels.

The access to affordable energy it is a question of basic needs and basic rights. Living in a house with adequate heating is not a luxury and should not be a concern only in times of crisis. By advancing the energy transition, both in Europe and around the world, we can make this the last time that the price of gas leads to such a crisis.

*** José Luis García Ortega is responsible for Greenpeace’s climate change area.

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