Cafè Europa - The EU's energy future: self-sufficient and sustainable?

"The transition to renewables can be seen as an opportunity for the EU to overcome its energy crisis," suggested Sònia Sánchez, a journalist with the newspaper Ara specializing in international politics and the environment. The journalist, together with the scientific researcher of the Institute of Marine Sciences of the CSIC, Antonio Turiel, took part in the November edition of Café Europa: "The energy future of the EU: self-sufficient and sustainable?" organized by the Fundació Catalunya Europa and the Associació Horitzó Europa.

"We are in a key decade for the energy transition," said Sanchez. Although there is no doubt that progress has been made, the European Union is in the planning phase, that is, setting goals and making commitments. The targets include a 55% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, with the aim of achieving a neutral continent of emissions by 2050. The latest available data, from 2018, show that Member States are consuming 45% of energy comes from oil, 22% from natural gas and only 15% from renewables. These data are also very unequal between the different European countries: Sweden, for example, is the leader in renewables with 55% of energy coming from this source, while Luxembourg and Malta remain around 6- 7%. Spain, on the other hand, is around 18% of the use of renewables. With this data, the EU is committed to reaching 40% of renewables by 2030.

Reaching common commitments at European level has not been easy. Reluctance was varied, Poland, for example, still has many coal reserves and few chances of renewables. Other countries, such as France, have historically opted for nuclear power, an energy that, while true that it does not emit CO2, has associated risks that cannot be ignored. Other countries, such as Germany, have called for natural gas to be included as a transition energy because, despite being a fossil fuel, it is the least polluting, although it is also the fuel responsible for the current energy crisis. .

In any case, the truth is that all the countries of the Union are extremely dependent on energy from abroad, specifically 60% of the energy consumed is imported. That is why Sánchez believes that "the transition to renewables can help solve the challenge of the energy crisis." The high percentage of imported energy leads to a dependence on Russia accused by Europe.

The energy transition must also be a "fair transition." We must not leave behind the most impoverished sectors or the workers who depended on fossil fuels. To this end, the EU has set aside a budget of € 100 billion, which is part of the so-called "Green Deal".

The possibility of a "big blackout" has also been a topic of debate. "Spain is an energy island and that favors it, even though the protection system doesn't always work," said Antonio Turiel.

Turiel also argued that energy change must be accompanied by a certain decrease because "there can be no infinite growth on a finite planet." Turiel also added that in the future we will have to be 100% renewable, but that does not mean we are 100% electric. Sanchez added to the need to transition to degrowth, although he argued that it should be uneven. "Countries that have already grown up need to start this process, but we need to allow the least developed countries to keep growing for a few years to reach a balance." Both acknowledged, however, that "degrowth can be dangerous because it can cause inequality, rejection and the rise of populism" and that is why it must be "as fair as possible."