Fossil FuelsActivists claim that the rise of fossil gas in Europe is accelerating...

Activists claim that the rise of fossil gas in Europe is accelerating the climate crisis

Protesters have warned that Europe’s growing use of fossil gas is hastening the collapse of the climate and putting more reliance on hostile regimes. Analysis by the campaign group Beyond Fossil Fuels shows that only four of Europe’s gas-fired power plants have a retirement plan, and new projects will increase the continent’s gas generation capacity by 27%.

It makes the case that the rush for gas runs counter to the IEA’s advice that wealthy nations decarbonize their power systems within the next ten years to prevent global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Alexandru Mustață, an activist at Beyond Fossil Fuels, stated that governments need to make it very evident to the gas business that its time is running out. “This compromises our security, increases the risk of stranded assets, and exposes us to volatile power prices and toxic emissions.”

According to campaigners who mapped the continent’s power facilities using data from Global Energy Monitor, a planned retirement date had been established for just 2% of the gas-fired power plants in Europe.

According to the analysis, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom were the countries with the most planned and installed capacity to produce power from fossil gas—a fuel that burns when dug up and produces emissions that warm the planet. At a summit of the G7 climate and energy ministers last year, the three nations decided to “fully or predominantly” decarbonize their power sectors by 2035.

The remaining projects are either just for power or do not specify, however roughly one-third of the planned power plants are also used to create heat, which is more difficult to provide cleanly than electricity.

The modelling of energy transition routes, according to Beatrice Petrovich, an analyst at the climate think tank Ember, indicated that fossil gas would have a “diminishing role” in the mix of energy sources used in Europe.

She also said that Europe needed a clear strategic direction to implement solutions at the required rate. “Investing in clean flexibility, renewable energy, and grids now will not only help to mitigate the dangerous rise in temperatures, but it will also lower consumer bills and lessen the chance of price spikes associated with a volatile global gas market.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine and drove up gas prices, European governments have hurried to expand fossil gas infrastructure while simultaneously pushing for the global phase-out of fossil fuels. Projects include pipelines to transport gas across the continent, power stations to burn it, and terminals to accept ships carrying liquefied natural gas.

Dr Chris Bataille, a researcher at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and author of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate solutions, stated that he believed new gas plants could contribute to a decarbonized energy system, “but you’re heading to a point by 2035–40 where you’re just keeping that fleet around emergencies.”

He did not expect many of the projects to become stranded assets, he added, because a gas plant pays for itself in about 10 years.

The big worry for the climate is where the gas comes from, said Bataille. “There is a concern with getting stuck on gas that’s high in fugitive emissions. But if you’re being preferential with your buying, it’s a temporary thing you’re planning to shut down once you’ve got enough wind, solar and batteries, I don’t see it as much of a concern.”

The IPCC concluded in 2022 that the emissions from the infrastructure based on planned and ongoing “unabated” fossil fuel use would be sufficient to exceed the 1.5C carbon budget. Instead of switching to greener energy sources to replace its assets, the oil and gas industry has pushed technology that captures and stores carbon (CCS).

However, experts are sceptical about carbon capture’s ability to generate electricity, especially in conjunction with renewable energy sources during periods when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. They see carbon capture as a promising approach to clean up some filthy industries, including cement-making.

Because the additional capital expenses of removing carbon from a gas plant are so great, Bataille stated that “you would have to run it all the time to make it worth it.” “It cannot used as a following unit to balance solar and wind energy.”

He said that although using natural gas with carbon capture “might be legitimate” in areas without access to other clean, reliable power sources, that possibility was becoming less likely due to developments in battery technology.

“There is less and less evidence supporting fossil fuel CCS in the power sector.”

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