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A new academic report warns that countries in Europe are increasingly running low on energy reserves, and an advocacy group says that as a result, “Energy Dependence Day” is arriving earlier each year.
Some European countries now have less than a year’s worth of energy resources on hand and are growing more reliant on imports from the Middle East, Norway and – most politically sensitive – from Russia, according to a report by the Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) at Britain’s Anglia Ruskin University.
The report, which focuses on maps that detail countries’ energy reserves and consumption, says Britain has 5.2 years’ worth of oil, 4.5 years’ worth of coal and three years’ worth of gas. The news for Italy is worse; it has less than a year’s reserves of gas and coal and only one year’s worth of oil. France has less than a year’s worth of reserves for all three sources of energy.
The outlook is better in Central and Eastern Europe. Poland has 34 years’ worth of coal, and Bulgaria has 73 years’ worth of the same resource. Meanwhile, Germany has more than 250 years’ of coal reserves but only 2 years’ worth of gas and less than a year’s worth of oil.
And then there is Russia, Eurasia’s energy behemoth, with more than 50 years’ worth of oil, more than 100 years’ worth of gas and fully 500 years’ reserves in coal.
All this means that Europe, particularly Western Europe, is becoming increasingly dependent on imports, according to Aled Jones, director of the Anglia Ruskin’s GSI.
“These maps show vulnerability in many parts of the EU,” Jones said, “and they paint a picture of heavily indebted European economies coming under increasing threat from rising global energy prices.”
The only recourse for these countries is an accelerated effort to develop alternative energy sources, said Victor Anderson, a professor at the Global Sustainability Institute.
The shrinking energy reserves mean that Europe is increasingly accelerating the arrival of “Energy Dependence Day,” when it can no longer rely on its own resources and reserves but must import energy.
This was the conclusion of a report delivered May 16 to European energy ministers making up the Energy Council in Athens. It was prepared by the European Alliance for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EuroAce), which advocates for improved energy in buildings.
EuroAce tracked fossil fuel use in Europe for the past two decades and found that during that period it rose from 43 percent in 1995 to 54 percent in 2011. That increase was due in large part to increased demand for energy in buildings and a simultaneous decline in indigenous energy production, it said.
In 1995, the report said, Europe ran out of locally produced energy – and therefore had to begin importing it – on July 26. In 2011, that day came 38 days earlier, on June 18.
But EuroAce said annual “Energy Dependence Day” can come each year as late as October 26 if energy efficiency is improved by 40 percent in Europe. That also would reduce imported energy by 80 percent.
In a prepared remark, EuroAce’s director, Adrian Joyce, said, “Such a reduction in energy imports would [at 2012 prices] release up to €335 billion [$459 billion] net into the EU economy per year in unspent revenue on energy imports, and that money could be diverted to financing energy efficiency measures in the EU.”
By. Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com