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Reducing Europe’s reliance on Russian gas: coal comes back in the picture

While the International Energy Agency has prepared a list of actions to take to minimise Europe’s reliance on Russian gas, measures that include the rollout of new solar and wind projects or the replacement of gas boilers with heat pumps, the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans is not excluding other options.

Speaking at the BBC Radio 4 Today program, Mr Timmermans said that energy resourcing would have to be diversified. “No taboos”, in this situation, which also means we might have to “stick a bit longer with coal or with nuclear.”

Only a month ago, the Commission had labelled natural gas as sustainable, under certain conditions, the most important of which was the acceleration of the energy transition away from coal. The decision was already broadly criticised. Now, Mr Timmermans seems to suggest that even coal could be accepted in the short term under the current circumstances.

“If [Poland and other countries] stay longer with coal, but then immediately moved to renewables, it could still be within the parameters we set for our climate policy,” he said.

Indeed, the response from Poland, the EU’s country most reliant on coal for its energy supply, arrived immediately.

Wojciech Dąbrowski, President of the Management Board of Poland’s largest energy sector company PGE said that Mr Timmermans’ statement is a de facto confirmation of Poland’s position on a just transition.

“The EU’s climate policy should strive for a fair and wise and not a wild, energy transition,” he said. “It should take account of diversification and the use of natural resources, excluding the Russian sphere of influence. Poland has been consistently pursuing this strategy for many months, which is why the Energy Transformation Programme was adopted by the government on 1 March. Unfortunately, it was only such a brutal event as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine that made our European partners reflect and confirm the rightness of the path taken by Poland.”

According to him, now, President Timmermans’ words should be followed by action.

“We suggest to the European Commission a reform of the ETS system – we have some concrete proposals,” Mr Dąbrowski added. “A mechanism which was supposed to promote a safe and fair energy transition cannot be a weapon aimed at the European energy sector, especially in the current situation. Overnight, events in Ukraine have led Europe to revise its energy transition plans. This radical turnaround will better prepare the EU energy market to meet the challenges of the future while building a solid foundation for the energy security of the entire European Union. The time has come to think seriously about what, in the current situation, really determines our energy security and how to build the future of energy.”

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