Gas prices: Europe’s dependence is not inevitable. – Business

When temperatures drop outside and a cool autumn wind blows through the cracks, large parts of Europe are once again seeing how vulnerable they are. Every few years, a gas crisis looms, and if it is not a gas transit crisis, then there is one on the market: the bet of a cold winter, the scarcity of storage and therefore the price increase. The supply of natural gas, or more precisely: Russian natural gas, is Europe’s Achilles heel in winter.

The next crisis is already on the horizon, and if winter turns cold, it could be as dramatic as it hasn’t been for a long time. Global demand for gas has exploded, as has the price of gas. Shortly before the start of the heating season, the storage tanks are not as full as usual. Whether Russia, Europe’s largest gas supplier, caused the shortage or is quietly accepting it is almost secondary. Moscow sets the price in this market, without a doubt. But their dependence on Russian gas is in the hands of the Europeans themselves, and they have known it since the first gas crises at the turn of the millennium.

Since then, the answer has been, in addition to the search for new gas suppliers: to reduce gas consumption. After 2005, major renovation programs were launched, and the federal government also promoted better insulated buildings that required less heat in winter. This departure dates back 15 years. But the renovation rate has barely exceeded one percent a year since then, despite lavish funding. And the energy needs of 19 million buildings last year, according to figures from the German Energy Agency, were at the same level as in 2010. Slowly, far too slowly, the shift away from fossil heating is progressing.

It has a lot to do with the slowness of the masonry in the construction area. You don’t just build houses from scratch. A renovation should also be carefully considered: elderly homeowners in particular are reluctant to take on any debts they may have to bequeath. Homeowners, on the other hand, have little incentive to renovate because they can only partially pass the costs on to tenants, but have none of the lower heating costs. Craftsmen often prefer to install boilers because they earn more by buying them than with a heat pump. On top of that, many plumbers are not as familiar with heat pumps as they are with the good old boiler. There are many reasons why greater gas independence has not worked so far.

But there are also many ways to change this.

It doesn’t even require funding anymore; it just needs to be more focused. Houses built before 1979 use about half of the heating energy. It was then that the first rules on thermal insulation came into force, and after that it was better to build. In the townhouses of this era alone, enormous amounts of energy could be saved – if this were specifically encouraged. Advice will play a major role here: Many homeowners feel overwhelmed by the renovation project because it is complex.

And of course the price of CO₂ is becoming more and more important: it also makes heating more expensive – but it makes it even more attractive to become less dependent on fossil fuels; whether by insulating the facade or by replacing the oil or gas boiler with a heat pump. This is why it is so important to collect the price of CO₂ from the landlord, not the tenant. Because only owners can invest in the energy balance of their buildings. You must also be encouraged to do so.

Anyone still struggling with cracks could literally face an uncomfortable and costly winter. But it could also prompt some people to think about alternatives. Such a heat pump, for example, does not need natural gas or pipelines, it works with the energy of the sun and the wind. Which, of course, can only mean one thing after the legislative elections: Anyone who takes the promise of climate protection seriously, anyone who wants to ditch fossil fuels and at the same time make the country less vulnerable, will rely on the expansion. rapid renewable energy. It’s actually not that difficult.

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