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Europe’s energy crisis: Skyrocketing energy bills, strikes hit countries

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Oct 14, 2022 - 07:07 AM

ISTANBUL (AA) – A looming energy crisis following the Russian war in Ukraine continues to dominate Europe’s agenda.

While energy bills have skyrocketed across the continent, many Europeans are coming up with new ways to cope with the crisis, such as Belgians who have started using wood and pellets to stay warm this winter.

On the other hand, ordinary Europeans who are directly affected by the crisis are raising their voice by organizing strikes, including in French refineries.

Belgium

Belgians have started burning wood and pellets to stay warm this winter.

According to Belgian media, skyrocketing energy prices in Europe are spurring the public to find cheaper alternatives, while preparing for cold and winter.

Amid sky-high gas bills, many Belgians are installing stoves as an alternative to turning on their gas heaters.

This has pushed up the demand for wood and wood pellets in Belgium, which in turn has pushed up prices.

French strike continues

The strike at French refineries continued Thursday despite a government decision to force some employees back to work.

Philippe Martinez, head of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), one of the five major trade unions in France, condemned the government’s coercive measures as “scandalous” and announced he would file an injunction against the decision.

French President Emmanuel Macron, during an interview with France 2 television on Wednesday, promised a return to normality “in the course of the coming week.”

The workers’ strike at nuclear power plants in France extended on Thursday as employees from Western Europe’s most powerful nuclear power plant also joined the action.

Workers at the Gravelines power plant (Hauts-de-France region), operated by French power producer EDF, have also joined the strike movement, which could cause delays in work ahead of the resumption of some reactors, according to local media reports.

The Gravelines employees are demanding a 5% increase in gross pay, threatening to delay the grid connection of one of the six 900-megawatt reactors, which will be shut down this weekend for annual maintenance and will be restarted before the end of the year.

“The strikes may affect certain maintenance operations,” EDF said in a statement.

Spain

The Spanish prime minister on Thursday announced an additional €3 billion ($2.9 billion) in government aid to reduce household energy bills.

Speaking in the Spanish parliament, Pedro Sanchez said the benefits will reach around 40% of households.

Although Spain is less dependent on Russian energy than other EU countries and has implemented a price cap on gas, the average consumer electricity prices have shot up around 60% over the last year, according to Eurostat.

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