How rising energy prices have complicated Europe’s climate crisis

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Spain, meanwhile, has pushed for a faster transition to renewable energies, precisely so that the continent is not forever subject to the vagaries of the gas market. “The present and the future belong to renewables and we cannot solve a crisis caused precisely by dependence on fossil fuels by looking to the past,” said Teresa Ribera, her Deputy Prime Minister and longtime activist for the climate, in an e-mail. “The Spanish government believes that the transition should be speeded up, not slowed down.”

Tim Gore of the Institute for European Environmental Policy, a Brussels-based research group, called rising electricity prices a “perfect storm”. Global demand for gas has risen sharply as winds in northern Europe (where wind power is important) plummeted and gas reserves dwindled during a long winter of containment. Added to this was the closure of coal-fired power plants, mainly in Western Europe.

“The fact that the EU has succeeded in removing a lot of coal from the energy grid actually makes matters worse,” Gore said. “It’s a good thing, but it’s unfortunate that it coincides with everything else.”

The human consequences are occurring in the apartment on the 7th floor of Ascención García López in a working-class suburb of Madrid, where electricity prices have risen sharply, triggering protests in the streets.

Ms López’s electricity bills have nearly doubled since last year, forcing her to change her habits. It keeps its shutters open until sunset, so that the last rays of the sun can light up the rooms. She cooks her stews in a pressure cooker, instead of simmering for better flavor. She does the laundry in the middle of the afternoon, when electricity prices are cheaper, but she fears her neighbors will complain because mid-afternoon in Madrid is nap time.

Ms López, 56, currently unemployed and responsible for looking after two young grandchildren and her elderly mother, has not yet had to turn on the heat. Winter worries him. “I will only use it on the colder days, not every day,” she said.


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