Europe’s renewable energy obsession has set up a winter energy crisis

For decades, European countries have thumbed their noses at the United States for not doing enough to embrace unreliable energy sources like wind and solar power. This scorn was especially apparent from Angela Merkel, who chided President Trump for leaving the Paris climate agreement.

Now, Europe’s bad energy policy chickens are coming home to roost in the form of an energy crisis that will leave the entire continent, Germany included, at the mercy of the weather. According to Bloomberg:

Europe is bracing for a tough winter as an energy crisis that’s been years in the making leaves the continent relying on the vagaries of the weather.

Faced with surging gas and electricity prices, countries from the U.K. to Germany will need to count on mild temperatures to get through the heating season. Europe is short of gas and coal and if the wind doesn’t blow, the worst-case scenario could play out: widespread blackouts that force businesses and factories to shut.

The unprecedented energy crunch has been brewing for years, with Europe growing increasingly dependent on intermittent sources of energy such as wind and solar while investments in fossil fuels declined. Environmental policy has also pushed some countries to shut their coal and nuclear fleets, reducing the number of power plants that could serve as back-up in times of shortages.

“It could get very ugly unless we act quickly to try to fill every inch of storage,” said Marco Alvera, chief executive officer of Italian energy infrastructure company Snam SpA. “You can survive a week without electricity, but you can’t survive without gas.”

Praying for good weather in the wintertime is not a coherent energy policy for a modern nation; it is something humanity did when Laura Ingalls Wilder was busy writing Little House on the Prairie and The Long Winter. Unfortunately, this is the brutal reality that Europeans face, thanks to the bad decisions made by the politicians they elected.

Filling natural gas storage space in Europe has been made unnecessarily difficult by the fracking bans enacted in Denmark, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, which essentially outlawed advances in domestic natural gas production.

Now, the entire continent depends upon Russian gas and the mercy of Vladimir Putin to keep warm and keep the lights on this winter. This has been a losing strategy so far, as Russia has curbed deliveries of the additional natural gas the continent needs to refill its depleted storage sites after a cold winter last year.

It gets worse, according to Bloomberg:

Governments are also concerned about the blow to households already contending with higher costs of everything from food to transport. As power and gas prices break records day after day, Spain, Italy, Greece and France are all stepping in to protect consumers from inflation. 

“It will be expensive for consumers, it will be expensive for big energy users,” Dermot Nolan, a former chief executive officer of U.K. energy regulator Ofgem, said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “Electricity and gas prices are going to be higher at home than everybody would want and they are going to be higher than they have been for about 12 years.”

We are constantly told that building wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage facilities will result in lower energy costs, and that this transition will not sacrifice the reliability of our electric system. But whenever this is tried in the real world, the inescapable end result is always higher prices and energy scarcity.

Minnesota lawmakers should take note of the unfolding energy disaster and Europe and do everything possible to avoid making the same mistakes. Unfortunately, many Minnesota lawmakers haven’t gotten the memo yet.