Electricity in Europe - Overview
In general current electricity demand across the whole of Europe, is basically stagnant. The stagnation is partially due to the drive in recent times for greater energy efficiency and probably more significantly due to the lingering effects of the recent economic recession. While generation capacity has increased slightly this is primarily attributable to the rehabilitation of existing power plants and the commissioning of several small – scale renewable projects.
In several European countries the margins between supply and demand are at dangerously low levels and the risk of brownouts and blackouts have never been greater.
Many commentators argue that Europe’s current energy mix relies too heavily on imported oil and gas from politically unstable parts of the world, along with an unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels.
As such Europe’s energy policy is currently at a crossroads. Its grid infrastructure and many power stations are ageing and major investment decisions are need at a time when investors are running shy of the sector. Important issues are at stake; stability of supply, growing demand, the risks of nuclear power and the urgent need to cut emissions and head off climate change. The recent turmoil in Ukraine has also highlighted the importance of energy security by reducing European mainland generators reliance on imported gas from Russia.
In the quest to cut greenhouse emissions, the EU aims to obtain by 2020 20% of its energy from renewable sources – basically by generous financial support for projects promoting wind, solar, hydro-electric and tidal power sources.
Underlying the current climate is also the concern among industrialists and politicians about maintaining Europe’s international business competiveness by minimizing energy costs, which have risen significantly in recent times. With US energy costs being half of those found in Europe, many are hoping that, like in the US, shale gas may be the solution.
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