Electricity prices are rising sharply in many European countries. Up to 10 per cent of the EU’s population is facing the choice “eat or heat” – to eat or to heat their homes.
To reduce the use of fossil fuels, clean sources should electrify much of our economies. (Photo: Pok Rie/Pexels)
Recently, electricity customers in the UK have paid up to 3 euros per kilowatt hour. This corresponds to an annual cost of several hundred thousand kronor for a normal homeowner. And in the Netherlands, the Government has already set aside €500 million to protect the poorest from the consequences of rising energy prices.
In several countries, factories are once again closing due to high electricity costs. This is a third industrial shutdown, in the wake of those previously caused by the pandemic and semiconductor shortage, threatening employment and welfare.
We have long known that the climate is changing, that it is becoming more extreme and difficult to predict. But it is probably only in recent years that we have begun to really understand. And few of us were prepared for the speed of change.
The changing climate has helped to reduce stocks of fossil gas – an energy source Europe has become increasingly dependent on. Germany has been replacing its nuclear and coal power with Russian gas, while Belgium has been building new gas power plants with government subsidies.
"Stable energy supply is a prerequisite for a green industrial revolution"
At the same time as climate and security policy leads to catastrophic investments in gas, important investments in solar and wind energy are underway. But the crisis also shows that weather-dependent power production is not enough, at least while large-scale storage of surplus energy generated during windier days is lacking.
Climate change is increasing the need for electricity. The epoch-making Swedish experiments with carbon-free steel require large amounts of electricity, as do electric motors for future vehicles. Stable energy supply is a prerequisite for the green industrial revolution now transforming Norrland, the northern part of Sweden.
Therefore, more active decisions are needed that increase investment in fossil-free energy production. The priority in the short and medium term must be to phase out energy sources that contribute to climate emissions, and to ensure there is enough electricity to meet the needs of the transition.
"We must phase out energy sources that contribute to climate emissions, and ensure there is enough electricity to meet the needs of the transition"
Stopping climate emissions is about our survival on this planet. That is why Europe’s politicians have a great responsibility to make decisions that gain legitimacy and acceptance, not only in the moment but also when the full consequences are revealed.
Crises hit those with the smallest wallets the hardest. Therefore, today’s emergency must be a warning to both decision-makers and the environmental movement.
When people’s lives improve, their will and ability to solve environmental problems increase. But when ill-considered political decisions lead to increased poverty, acceptance of change also weakens.
Human prosperity can be combined with viable ecosystems, healthy seas and a stabilised climate. But decisions about future energy systems must be based on long-term stable access to fossil-free energy. Anything else is playing roulette with people’s trust.
Karolina Lisslö Gylfe is a biologist and Secretary General of Ekomodernisterna in Sweden. Co-authors are Take Aanstoot who is the Chair of the Swedish Ecomodernists and Jessica Eek who is a Board Member of that organisation.
This article was originally published by Sydöstran, a newspaper in Sweden.