If I have to choose one buzzword for this August 2022, that is Energy. The rocketing price of gas that from EUR 27 MWh reached EUR 340 MWh at the Amsterdam’s TTF (Title Transfer Facility) in just 12 months has triggered emergency in all European countries. Every country is trying to find a solution by searching for alternative sources of Energy production while the EU is calling for an urgent meeting at the beginning of September to decide what to do as Winter (hopefully not as cold as it should be) is approaching.
Studies in the UK forecast an annual average cost of energy for households going from £1,900 to £3,500 in October 2022 that could increase to £5,000 in January 2023 and £7,000 in April 2023, which would force million of families to decide whether paying the electricity bill or buying food.
Yet, we have heard that Russia is burning unsold gas for the equivalent of EUR 10 million/day. Apart from this waste of material that could solve many issues, there is the environmental consequence of this action.
We have been discussing for years how we could save emissions generated by the humankind activity; suggestions regarded changing the way we move people and freight (e.g. electric cars/lorries and electric vessels), using Renewable Energy Sources (mainly based on sun, wind and tides), eating different food (e.g. reducing cow meat that requires a lot of water to be processed), wearing clothes made of natural fabric, etc..
Not only do these changes have an economic cost as they need long-term investments and time for being implemented and generate benefits, but they also require behavioural change and acceptance by ourselves as individuals and consumers.
For instance, in case of cars, people of my age (born in the 1960s) are used to drive a car and when the tank is getting empty they look for a fuel station and in 5 mins they are ready again to drive for several hundred kilometres. When we drive a fully electric vehicle, things become more complicated: we have to find a recharge station (whose deployment density is not yet satisfactory), wait tens of minutes (depending on the voltage and kind of current supplied) before starting our trip again keeping in mind that, when we are lucky, we have just a few hundred kilometres of autonomy (the other big problem that prevent large diffusion of EVs along with the purchasing cost and, as said, the poor recharge stations network).
During this August 2022 we have heard several suggestions that could have frightened us just a few months ago such as, for instance, using more coal or nuclear powerhouses to produce energy. We were told for decades that these two sources of energy were to be dismissed ASAP as the former generated too many polluting emissions and the latter was unsafe and several accidents happened in the last few decades showed it.
So, what now? should we go back to the past or keep on track and proceed with installation of RES? In the meantime, we should remember that, for example, building Photovoltaic (PV) cell-based plants would consume soil that otherwise could have been used to grow crops and give humankind food. And making electric cars with more autonomy (i.e. better batteries that in some way should be recharged) needs more lithium and other precious elements that have to be extracted from certain areas of the world disrupting those ecosystems and their populations’ life.
Due to a number of concurrent causes, we have arrived at a crucial crossroad, but I personally feel now confused about which direction to take.
EPN Consulting and EPN Consulting Research & Innovation Founder and CEO