Climate technology change — part 1
Energy giant RWE operates a coal-fired power station, as well as wind turbines in North-Rhine Westphalia
Last week I joined The Economist’s talk on climate technology given by four of their journalists. It was a good opportunity to hear their summary about the latest climate technology and how it’s been pivoting quickly with Russian gas becoming more restricted in Europe.
The immediate result of Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine has been a European energy shock. This has been particularly badly felt in Germany which is heavily dependent on Russian gas, having closed all but three of its nuclear power stations with all coal-fired stations set to close by 2038 at the latest.
It’s a tricky time for Germany’s Economic Affairs and Climate Action Minister, whose top priority is securing energy supplies, even though the core issue for his environmentalist Green Party is the phasing out of coal and nuclear as quickly as possible.
Has energy security taken priority over climate and environmental goals?
Europe is buying lots of natural gas from around the world to replace the Russian gas which could be cut off at any point. Huge, liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals are quickly springing up on the east coast of the US, to help quell some of this new demand.
Germany and other countries are in a rush, because gas storage tanks need to be filled this summer, if the lights are to remain on this autumn and winter, at a price which is still tolerable for the consumer.
Fuel switching, but in the wrong way is also happening, with coal plants being allowed to run at higher rates than they would otherwise expect too.
The Economist’s view is technology and innovation implemented thoughtfully, still relying on gas, but without typical 40 year commitments to infrastructure can still keep us on the right path to a low carbon future. That sounds as likely as Boris Johnson being Prime Minister by the time you read this. (Written on 7th July, 7:30am).