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Energy crisis dominates Europe’s agenda as winter approaches

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SCHIEDAM, THE NETHERLANDS - While the rapidly increasing electricity and natural gas prices in The Netherlands have put the furnaces in a difficult situation, some businesses have to close since they cannot meet their costs under these difficult conditions. (Abdullah Aşıran - Anadolu Agency)
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Nov 03, 2022 - 03:08 AM

ANKARA (AA) – Europe is facing a deepening energy crisis partly because of the Russia-Ukraine war as Moscow has suspended natural gas supplies in response to economic sanctions imposed by the West.

European governments are trying to diversify supplies and introduce measures to reduce demand and save energy.

Here are the latest developments on the energy front in Europe.

Norway

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store warned Wednesday that the energy crisis could lead to more energy nationalism in Europe.

“In the critical situation we are in now, with high electricity and gas prices affecting ordinary people, industry, workplaces and the economy, there is a danger that we will all become more concerned with national conditions and how we ensure our power supply,” Store told Norwegian news agency NTB.

He said the energy crisis could lead to each country prioritizing its own needs, so collaboration between countries is essential to avoid some countries being left behind.

“I think European leaders know that if each country starts doing its own thing, then everyone will lose. But it is a communication challenge to convey that we must find solutions to this together,” he said.

But the country drew criticism from the European Union and neighboring countries Sweden, Denmark and Finland when it revealed its “management mechanism” plan, which would guarantee that Norway has enough electricity in times of crisis.

Norway was blamed for acting nationalistically by the Finnish grid company Fingrid when it announced plans to cut electricity exports to Europe.

But Store disagreed, saying “I have not experienced any criticism of it.”

“Everyone understands what this is about” as Norway has a “completely unique energy system” with a thousand water reservoirs, he told NTB.

Store emphasized that Norway would continue to share energy with neighboring countries.

“If each country were to have its own closed system, we would have to build up enormous reserves to be able to meet times of shortage. Now we have managed to balance this in a good way, and we must take care of that cooperation, he added.

He pointed out that the price of gas is now the same as prior to the war in Ukraine, but forecasts indicate that it will increase again.

“It is worth realizing how far cooperation in the EU has come. The EU leaders have managed to bring prices down and have taken a number of joint measures which have calmed the market,” he added.

The Netherlands

Dutch bakeries are facing the threat of closure amid rising energy costs in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

But as electricity and natural gas prices surge, bakery owners are coming up with new ways to reduce their costs while continuing to work long hours every day to meet the demands of customers.

Hasan Atik, a baker in the city of Schiedam, told Anadolu Agency that the bakery business was hit hard by the energy crisis in the country.

“While the monthly energy bill was €1,800 ($1,782) before, it is now €5,400. This is a huge amount for us,” he said.

Atik said he tries to save energy by reducing production and not using the oven too much.

“We made a small change in the prices, but this is really extraordinary for the people, because even 25 or 30 cents can be too much for everyone’s budget. The purchasing power of the people has decreased considerably,” he said.

Atik expects urgent solutions from the government and energy companies and says that otherwise, many bakeries will face the threat of closure in three to five months.

Zeki Solmaz, who has been a baker for 30 years in Rotterdam, said the energy crisis has affected bakers the most.

“I am now paying (for energy bills) nearly three times more than before,” he told Anadolu Agency. “While I was paying €1,600 per month, the monthly bill increased to €5,600 after my contract with the energy company expired.

“We don’t turn on lamps when they are not needed anymore. We close the upper compartment of the oven” and only operate equipment when it is necessary, he said, but added that this was not enough.

“As a family, we are trying to make a living with our savings. It has been going on like this for two months, but I don’t know how much longer we can go on,” he said.

Ineke Ruijs, an employee of a 25-year-old bakery in Schiedam, said the bakery will close this week due to the energy crisis and a staff shortage.

The Dutch government announced on Sept. 20 that as of Jan. 1, 2023, a ceiling price will be applied to energy prices for households.

Ukraine

Ukraine’s sole power grid operator announced Wednesday that power outages were implemented in multiple regions as it prepares to stabilize the energy supply damaged by recent Russian drone and missile attacks.

Ukrenergo said in a statement that people in the capital Kyiv as well as the Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Kharkiv and Poltava regions were without power as of 6 a.m. local time.

Consumption restrictions are necessary to reduce the load on the grid, ensure sustainable balancing of the power grid and avoid repeated accidents, it added.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in a meeting with EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson on Tuesday that 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been seriously damaged since Russia launched its “special military operation” in February.

The recent escalation is seen as an apparent retaliation for what Moscow alleged was a Ukrainian attack on its Black Sea Fleet and on the bridge linking Crimea to Russia.

“Unfortunately, due to the strikes of missiles and kamikaze drones by the Russian Federation on our energy system, we have suspended this process,” Zelenskyy said, referring to Ukraine’s export of electricity to Europe.

Kyiv said on Oct. 20 that it would cut energy consumption across the country by 20% due to lower output from damaged energy facilities.

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