Europe’s pivot away from traditional power sources without a proper contingency plan may be putting the continent at risk of a severe energy crisis, warns an energy executive.
A severe shortage in generation capacity is to be expected in several European countries, Tor Martin Anfinnsen, a senior vice president for marketing and trading at Statoil ASA, said during a Tuesday conference in Amsterdam. Germany, the U.K. and Belgium — countries that are phasing out coal and turning away from nuclear power — are at risk of rolling blackouts and high electricity bills unless they change their policies.
“If you have a dangerous bend in the road and everyone knows there is a dangerous bend but nothing is done with it unless there is an accident in the road,” Anfinnsen stated Tuesday. “Is that what we will see in Europe in power generation as well? Will we have to see blackouts before you see a change in policies? That remains to be seen but we are getting dangerously close in many markets.”
Anfinnsen is calling on European leaders to embrace natural gas, an abundant fossil fuel source that emits around 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal. Natural gas can fill the energy void left as European counties continue to phase out coal and nuclear facilities.
“It is very difficult to see that there is any other way of fixing that up to 2030 by other means than increasing gas-fired power generation,” Anfinnsen continued. The company he represents, Statoil, is one of the continent’s biggest gas producers. “Not only through higher utilization of existing capacity but also adding new gas-based generation,” he said.
The bitter 2017-18 winter that gripped Europe fueled greater need for gas. In fact, demand for gasoline reached so high it neared the limit of supply.
The concerns mirror those made by California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker, who warned earlier this month that his state is at risk of its own energy crisis as customers continue to ditch utilities for local power sources. “We have a hodgepodge of different providers,” Picker stated to Bloomberg in a May 3 interview. “If we aren’t careful, we could slide back to the kind of crisis we faced in 2000 and 2001.”