European countries exploring energy futures with RES growth in mind

Though Norway has just announced plans to further develop its infrastructure for exploration and exploitation of new natural gas and oil deposits in the Arctic Ocean’s Barents Sea, in an effort to compete with Russsia, neighboring countries in Europe’s north are shaping their future energy plans with a focus on renewable energy.

The Norwegian plan, just announced by the country’s energy minister Terje Soeviknes, is planned to begin with hydrocarbon exploration in the northern part of the Barents Sea, believed to be holding huge unexploited deposits. This plan is expected to be submitted to Norway’s parliament for ratification in 2020.

Enormous natural gas amounts are being extracted in this sea area, shared by Russia and Norway since 2010, especially Russia’s Rosneft.

Norway’s state hydrocarbons fund, whose surplus has exceeded one trillion euros, had recently decided to pursue RES investments, but the turn towards hydrocarbon exploration was deemed necessary given the competition with Moscow. The US is keeping a close watch on developments here.

Recent tenders, staged independently, without any state funding, for the development of offshore wind parks in Europe’s north, had generated hopes that the dependency of electricity prices on state aid, whose cost is ultimately passed on to consumers, is approaching its end.

The UK faces major decisions in choosing between energy sources, one reason being the country’s continuously growing electricity demand for cars. The resistance of local communities against shale gas extraction has severely delayed such activity. The approach has been banned in Scotland.

UK investments in the RES sector fell by 56 percent in 2017, to 10.3 billion pounds from 23.4 billion pounds a year earlier. The UK government has announced that subsidies for RES development in the country will end once an amount of 557 billion euros, currently available, has been spent.

In Germany, a battle is still being waged over the use of lignite. A total of 148 lignite-fired production plants will keep using lignite until 2050. Officials contend this long-term use is needed to protect 20,000 jobs in the sector, adding that low-cost energy will be necessary once the country’s nuclear power stations have been closed by 2022.

Numerous countries, including the UK, Canada and France, decided last month to stop using carbon by 2025. As is widely known, Greece is facing pressure to limit its lignite use. Germany has promised a 40 percent reduction of its CO2 emissions, compared to levels in 1990, by 2020. At present, 40 percent of electricity used in Germany is lignite-produced.