“The war in Ukraine has accelerated the green transition in Europe”
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The share of electricity generated by renewables will rise massively in 2022 in Europe, surpassing that of natural gas for the first time, according to a new report from think tank Ember released on Tuesday. A situation accelerated by the war in Ukraine, in a sector where Europe and France are still lagging behind.
Will the war in Ukraine mark a decisive turning point for the European green transition? As the conflict with Russia has caused energy prices to soar and Europe is trying to reduce its dependence on Russian gas and oil, renewable energies have made strong progress in 2022 on the continent.
According to a study published on Tuesday 31 January by the thinktank Ember, a specialist in energy issues, the share of electricity produced by solar and wind energy in the European Union reached 22% of total electricity production last year, exceeding the share of natural gas for the first time.
This rise in power of renewable energies is explained by the growth in the production of wind turbines (+ 8.5%) but above all by a record increase in photovoltaic installations (+ 47%). According to the study, the production of electricity by solar alone would have made it possible to avoid the purchase of 49 billion euros of gas, on the scale of the EU.
To better understand this development and its consequences, France 24 spoke with Vincent Jacques le Seigneur, president of the Renewable Energies Observatory.
France 24: What impact has the war in Ukraine had on the progress of renewable energies ?
Vincent James the Lord: The progression of solar and wind is part of a trend that precedes the Russian invasion. What we are seeing today is above all the result of the energy-climate package, a binding agreement adopted by the EU in 2008, which has made it possible to increase the share of renewable energies in the European energy mix to 20% in 2020. But it is true that the war in Ukraine accelerated the green transition. It ended the debate between States on the importance of reducing gas imports and raised real awareness of the importance of renewables. While the objective was to push their energy share to 32% in 2030, the EU is now betting on 45%.
Finally, to this was added citizen awareness with the incredible boom in photovoltaics. Since the war in Ukraine, many households affected in their portfolio by the energy crisis have equipped their homes with solar panels as indicated in the Ember study.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed Wednesday to facilitate state aid to support the green energy industry, in the face of American and Chinese competition. Is the EU lagging behind ?
From the manufacturing point of view, Europe is very dependent on Asia and in particular on the Chinese who have massively invested in renewable energies without the EU taking measures to protect its own industry. Sectors existed but they disappeared because we were invaded by less expensive equipment.
The advantage is that it is possible to relaunch an industry very quickly because we completely master the technology. The EU already produces almost all the necessary materials such as worm, steel, silicon. We just have some difficulties on certain metals like copper but nothing insurmountable. It is therefore a purely political decision, we must invest. If Europe does not choose this option, it will be swallowed up by the Americans and their gigantic subsidy plan.
Where does France stand on this issue? The National Assembly has adopted a bill to accelerate the deployment of renewable energies. At the same time, the EurObserv’ER consortium, of which you are the president, estimates that France will not achieve its deployment objectives in 2023. Why? ?
France is of course very far from the good students like Finland and Sweden, very advanced in hydroelectricity and bioenergy. But even when compared to Germany, whose characteristics are closer, we realize that France has four times fewer wind and solar installations. You could say that Germany has more wind, especially in the north, but it has less sun than here. This gap therefore clearly reflects a difference in political will. For a long time, electricity was cheaper in France because of the power stations. But the war in Ukraine has caused its price to explode because it is indexed to gas. It is therefore urgent to make up for this delay.
Most often, this delay is due to administrative reasons and not to a lack of investment or technical skills. The analysis of the files takes too long because France lacks personnel in its prefectures. Litigation appeals can last for years, which is why the government is now trying to better supervise them to speed up the procedures. These delays are all the more damaging as with their rapid progress and technological advances, renewable energies have become much more competitive. With soaring energy prices, they now represent a very significant financial windfall for the State.
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