Angela Wilkinson, Secretary General of World Energy Council. Image Credit: World Energy Council

Dubai: As winter sets in, residents in Europe will be grappling with a tough choice between heating and eating, warned Angela Wilkinson, Secretary General of World Energy Council.

“We live at a time in Europe where households are making choices between eating and eating, and that’s because of the way we manage energy - shame on us,” she said. “Markets in Europe are working perfectly, we have designed them for a completely different set of circumstances - shame on us.”

Russia, Europe’s top supplier of gas, has cut supplies in retaliation for EU sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

Gas accounted for roughly 20 per cent of EU electricity generation in 2020, while around half the gas consumed in Europe is used for space heating during winter.

Road to recovery

EU countries have agreed to cut gas demand by 15 per cent and set electricity saving targets during peak hours as part of emergency measures. They are also importing liquefied natural gas to minimise the impact of the shortfall after supply cuts.

“Europe has got to recover from the crisis, but also has to keep the momentum on decarbonisation on track,” said Wilkinson. “You have got to manage the secure, affordable and sustainable parts in parallel.”

According to the latest UN reports, countries are bending the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions downward. However, it is insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. UN says that the combined climate pledges of 193 parties under the Paris Agreement could put the world on track for around 2.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

“Despite there being political solidarity, European energy systems are diverse. It’s not easy to export policy from one place and make it work in another,” Wilkinson said. “And regional resilience has been overlooked, it’s been taken for granted.”

She said that the transition depends on transitions involving all people and diverse communities. “We like technology and money, but this transition has to involve people and communities. If we really want to balance security, affordability, sustainability, with resilience and justice, we have to do that from the bottom up.”

“I’m here, recruiting trilemma titans, who really want to get down deep and dirty and really learn and evolve this level of practice. Let’s stop talking at 45,000 feet about technology and money. We’ve got to plant the seeds of the future in these rich diverse values of communities and people.”