Turning solutions towards the Energy Crisis' Root Cause
Europe is experiencing an unprecedented energy crisis, driven by high gas prices. We face an emergency situation of rising energy prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ending the EU’s reliance on imported fossil fuels must be accelerated.
It is time to turn to real solutions.
Europe risks becoming lost in the treatment of the symptoms of the energy crisis, and not the cause. We cannot lose sight of the key structural solution to the crisis – renewable energy. Renewables are not just a solution in the long-term. Solar is available and provides energy price relief from the moment it is connected.
Europeans know this and are rushing to install solar PV on their rooftops. What holds them back are administrative and regulatory obstacles that can readily be removed with political will.
On 30 September, the EU Energy Ministers met in Brussels, and adopted a Council Regulation on an emergency intervention to address high energy prices.
In our statement, we took note of the Regulation’s provisions to cap market revenues on inframarginal generation technologies but are deeply concerned about patchwork implementation.
We call on the European Commission to tightly oversee implementation and safeguard the Internal Energy Market.
With the Regulation behind us, it is high time to talk about real solutions and deal with the root cause of the energy crisis. The high prices of energy are driven by Europe’s dependency on an expensive and volatile fossil fuels imports. The leaks detected on 26 September in the Nord Stream pipelines are yet further evidence of that.
The European Commission should present an emergency plan for boosting renewables now, and land that with the Council before end of the year, applying the same Art 122 emergency procedure used to adopt the EU’s initial emergency measures to the energy price crisis.
What should be in that package? There are plenty of elements that can make a real and immediate difference.
Five key actions European leaders can take right now:
Accelerate the development of the solar workforce through the EU large-scale skills partnership for onshore energy, ensuring the mapping of skills shortages and EU funding for training programmes.
Maximise the efficiency of the existing workforce through local authority facilitation of the ‘neighbourhood approach’ of rooftop PV installation.
Require member states to identify areas and complete permits for accelerated renewables deployment by June 2023 (“priority areas”). These should be areas where there are obviously no social or environmental conflicts like old industrial sites, along highways and railways, carparks, etc.
Expand the State aid Temporary Crisis Framework amendment adopted in July 2022. Exempt all solar PV up to 3MW from tendering requirements, and allow aid to benefit from the assumption that is clearly necessary in this crisis. This would cut red tape and open the door to substantial new quantities of rooftop solar aid packages.
Exempt on-site solar from construction permits, except for historical buildings. This is already the case in Italy, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
Launch a series of extraordinary tenders for flexible or hybrid renewable projects (solar + wind + storage). These directly compete with gas peakers and avoid gas prices to contaminate electricity prices. The EU could also consider EU-level tendering schemes mobilising CEF-E and RRF funding.
The solar panels are there & installations are increasing. Bloomberg NEF reports that Europe imported the equivalent of 54 GW of solar modules in the first half of 2022. Other estimates have the import numbers up to 60 GW in the first 8 months of the year.
The solar stock at our fingertips could power the equivalent of 18 million European households.
Tracker: Solar policies in response to the energy crisis
Fossil-fuel crises are the crises that never really go away. In the face of climate catastrophe, and worsening price shocks over the last 50 years, we need to be serious in directing solutions toward the root cause.
Europe cannot find itself in the same situation next winter, exposed and vulnerable to fossil fuel volatility and geo-politics. That would be tragic. We must act now.