Europe's slow turn: model countries and the Golden Age of Gas

Europe's slow turn: model countries and the Golden Age of Gas

Giuseppe Didonna
The third and penultimate day of the World Energy Congress provided a forum for discussing the future of energy in Europe, the many question marks surrounding this matter having yet to be tackled outside the realm of geopolitics

A report presented during the afternoon showed Europe’s contribution to the gradual transition to an energy system free of fossil fuels.
The report is entitled the Energy Dilemma Index, based on a concept that analyzes three dimensions, understood as challenges to overcome before a stable energy system can be achieved: energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability.
Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Estonia and Germany outperformed the rest of Europe in terms of ethical practices, but also in other areas, namely technological development, policy, the adaptive initiatives of public institutions and consumer awareness campaigns.

Mexico and Hong Kond look to renewables

Once again policy was a particular focus. Praise was heaped on Estonia, a country with no fossil fuel deposits of its own. Ando Leppiman, deputy state secretary of the country’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, stressed that Estonia managed to achieve such excellent results even though it could not access the energy market of neighboring Russia since the latter’s regulatory laws are incompatible with its own. He went on to warn that “political intervention must be kept to a minimum."
Beyond Europe, the ethical performance of Mexico and Hong Kong also offers good models, the two countries having recently made some giant leaps forward.
Christine Loh Kung-wai, Hong Kong’s undersecretary for the environment, explained that Hong Kong currently relies on fossil fuels for 50% of its energy demand. The government aims to reduce that figure to 25% by 2022. Here again, in order to reduce the important role of carbon-emitting energy, legislation must lead the way to largescale change. Aldo Flores Quiroga, Mexico’s deputy secretary of energy for hydrocarbons, explained that the guidelines followed by his country were implemented through reforms to gradually adopt the use of energy from renewable sources, improve energy efficiency and eliminate certain state subsidies.

Europe and the gas challenge

The afternoon session focused on Europe and specifically on certain other dilemmas requiring of the continent a new awareness, especially concerning geopolitical developments currently underway and new technological scenarios, with natural gas a constant backdrop as the only fossil fuel with any real growth prospects. This market must be stabilized with sustainable gas products.
Essential to the development of the gas market are new storage technologies, the conversion of surpluses from renewables and supplies from new gas pipelines. The latter prospect has benefited from events that transpired during the last few days, including the project to make use of Cypriot reserves, but especially the signing of the Turkish Stream agreement.
2015 marked a crucial moment for the European Union. Demand for natural gas shot up by 4% over that of 2014, even as output fell dramatically.
Europe’s largest natural gas reserves are in Norway, but especially in Russia. As GasTerra CEO Gertjan Lankhorst recalled, in 2006 Russia’s gas deposits alone inspired the IEA to use the term "golden age of gas." This scenario was reversed as soon as Moscow halted gas shipments to Ukraine.
However, the trouble opened the door for diversification, the construction of new gas pipelines (here again the most important being those of Cyprus and Turkish Stream) and methods for recycling LNG. These developments have revived markets, "especially in the northeast," remarked Lankhorst.
Uniper CEO Klaus Schäfer defined natural gas as a "vector of transition," but reassured his audience that Europe’s ample energy reserves buffet it against any possibility of out and out crisis.
However, according to Didier Holleaux, Engie’s executive vice president in charge of strategy, technology, projects and solutions, Europe’s energy security does not mean that there isn’t still much to do, because the continent is still in time for the "golden age of gas."