Putin given 'vast power' over European economies says expert

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Soaring energy prices across the bloc as a result of Russia’s tightening of gas supplies have left countries scrambling to diversify their energy sources. Analysts have suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin tightened supplies in the hope to speed up the certification of his new Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will transit gas from Russia into Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine.

But Germany suspended certification in a move likely to anger Mr Putin.

Now, countries are pushing to get their energy from other sources instead of relying on the Kremlin.

France recently announced that it will now support building new nuclear power plants.

But former German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to shut down its existing plants as the two countries within the bloc appear to have conflicting targets.

The energy crisis has then helped to resurface a long-running debate over the sustainability and safety of nuclear power as well as its impact on the environment.

A decade ago, nuclear power in Germany made up almost a quarter of the electricity generated in the country.

But now, the energy source is set to be removed from its grid completely by the end of 2022, according to analysis by data and analytics firm GlobalData.

Instead, Germany is looking to solar and wind power as a green source of energy to power its economy and homes.

Rohit Ravetkar, power analyst at GlobalData said “Wind and solar PV have made tremendous progress in Germany.

“Renewables are expected to play a major role in meeting the country’s power demand in the future, supported by a few conventional power plants.

“Old thermal plants are being transformed into energy storage facilities so that excess power generated from renewables can be supplied during peak demand.

“The country should focus more on new gas-based generation capacity, energy storage and modernisation of grids to maintain energy security.”

But in France, a much later target to phase out the energy source has been set, and they have different ideas for generating power.

Around 70 percent of France’s electricity is still generated from nuclear power due to a long-standing policy based on energy security.
Paris’ policy is to reduce this to 50 percent by 2035.

Ellen Wald, from the Global Energy Center, thinks that in the face of an energy crisis, France’s support for building new nuclear power stations is an “encouraging sign”.

She also slammed  Ms Merkel for trying to phase out nuclear power too soon.

Ms Wald wrote: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to shut down nuclear plants.

“As a result, Germany, which is the EU’s largest economy and was once an electricity exporter, has become an importer.

“Nuclear plants are the epitome of reliable power generation, providing stable electricity at all hours of the day, throughout the year.”

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Germany’s nuclear power fleet is now down to just six plants, which have all been slated for decommissioning by the end of the next year.

Ms Wald warned this could be a dangerous move.

She wrote: “Nuclear plants are expensive and politically challenging to build, but Britain, France and Germany, in particular, should halt planned closures of nuclear plants and maintain those that are safe and functioning.”

And earlier this month, France vowed to build more nuclear reactors to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, an EU target.

President Emmanuel Macron, also said it would help the country achieve “energy independence” as Mr Putin’s grip on the European energy market has become increasingly apparent.

Mr Macron said in a televised address: “To guarantee France’s energy independence, to guarantee our country’s electricity supply, and to reach our goals – notably carbon neutrality in 2050 – we will for the first time in decades revive the construction of nuclear reactors in our country, and continue to develop renewable energy.”

Greenpeace tore apart Macron’s announcement, calling the plan to build new reactors was “disconnected from reality”.

But while it is largely agreed that nuclear power produces lower emissions than coal, oil or gas, nuclear plants are costly to build and produce deadly radioactive waste.

This is why after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Germany started to accelerate the phasing out of the energy source in the country.

But 25 leading foreign and German environmentalists, journalists and academics wrote an open letter to the German public back in October to scrap the legislation that will see the energy source phased out at a fast pace

They argued that Germany will miss its target of a 65 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

They wrote: “It is very difficult to imagine that the measures adopted since then will completely close this gap.”

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