The EU has a climate and energy policy designed to deliver a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020, and an 80% reduction by 2050. So it was very interesting to attend a presentation by Eurelectric, the association of the European electricity industry on Tuesday, organised and hosted by my good friend Slovenian MEP Romana Jordan, where we were briefed by Eurelectric and by the EU’s official statistical body Eurostat on “Power statistics and trends 2013”.
We heard that European electricity demand in 2012 was flat, after a 2% reduction in 2011 from 2010. This is the result not of energy conservation or eficiency, but of the recession. Meantime so much subsidy has been thrown at renewables that total generating capacity is increasing. This contrasts, of course, with the UK situation where existing gas capacity has been mothballed because gas cannot compete with heavily subsidised renewables, and coal-fired power stations are closing.
But as Eurelectric puts it “The policy seems to have changed from “Renewables plus gas” to “Renewables plus coal”. This results from the availability of cheap American coal, as the US switches from coal to cheap shale gas. Germany, for example – über-green Germany – is building or refurbishing a couple of dozen coal plants. And the effect on emissions? “The increase in coal-fired generation meant that (in 2012) CO2 emissions did not fall … in 2013, emissions are expected to rise”. Eurelectric add “Policy costs” (essentially green taxes and levies) “… are growing three times faster than other price components and are now more than a quarter of average bills”. They add that the raw cost of energy is now less than half the price, with the rest covering distribution, and taxes & levies.
So despite hundreds of billions of €uros thrown at the project, and a huge Europe-wide effort which has desecrated landscapes and the environment, we are failing in the primary objective of reducing CO2 emissions. Has there ever been so much money spent with so little result? What would the public do if they understood that so much of their money has been squandered on a fool’s quest? If they understood that the main effect of green policies has been, not to reduce emissions, but to increase bills? To undermine industrial competitiveness? To force energy-intensive businesses to leave the EU, taking their jobs and their investment and their tax revenues with them? To drive millions of households and pensioners into fuel poverty?
An amusing postscript (you have to laugh, or you’d cry): the EU has something called “European Globalisation Adjustment Fund”, which spends up to €500 million a year. In theory this is a fund to help member states, and companies in member states, cope with the pressures of globalisation. In fact, it seems simply a device to get the EU to defray the unemployment costs of various companies favoured by the Commission. But each individual application (per project, not per unemployed worker) to the Fund requires approval in the parliament, so we see them going through with monotonous regularity. Of course UKIP always votes against, but the proposals are always approved by a large majority.
Today, we had an application on behalf of a company called First Solar in Germany (I suspect that the Chinese will be building last solar). And another on behalf of wind farm manufacturer Vestas in Denmark. So to the long list of renewables subsidies, you can add the contribution from the Globalisation Fund when the renewables company gets into trouble (as usually seems to happen).
The EU’s climate and energy policy is quite possibly the most expensive failure the world has ever seen. Yet they seem determined to press on regardless. The 80% target for 2050 implies total industrial devastation.