Energy crisis in Europe: How are countries responding?

Russia’s war in Ukraine has put European leaders into an unprecedented test. As Russia continues to use natural gas to strongarm Europe out of its support for Ukraine, Europeans are frivolously searching for ways to face the next winter. However, some see the energy crisis as an opportunity to invest in green energy to combat climate change, getting two flies with one stone. How are the continents’ political giants responding to Putin’s blackmail? 


Compared to other European countries, France’s dependance on Russian gas is not as significant, but not completely neglectable either. According to Selectra, the country imports around 20% of its gas from Russia. 

However, the French government has still leaped into action, having a press conference last Thursday about energy saving measures. The goal is ambitious: reduce French consummation of energy by 10% in 2 years. Although this ambition is mainly a response to the war in Ukraine, it also aims to put into action its climate commitments as well. These methods include encouraging distance work, carpooling and turning appartement heating down to 19°C degrees. Whereas these measures are a step to the right direction, the French left has criticized the plan for concentrating more on the individual than on collective action, and for lacking concrete prohibitions for energy wasting actions. 

There could be another solution for France’s energy struggles: Since the 1970s oil crisis, France has invested in nuclear power to attain energy independence. However, currently over 30 of France’s 56 nuclear reactors are out of work because of problems such as corrosion or maintenance work. Consequently, the country’s long time energy strategy is not on the level of readiness required to respond to the energy crisis.


In 2021 Russian gas accounted up to 55% of all natural gas imported to Germany. Following Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, that number declined to 26% by the end of June 2022. As the continent’s economic giant heavily based its Russia relations on economic cooperation, the war in Ukraine has done noticeable damage on Germany’s energy policy. 

Hence, Germany has returned to one of the dirtiest sources of energy: Coal. At least 20 nationwide coal plants are returning to use to replace the hole left by Russian gas. Going back to coal is not an ideal option because it goes against Germany’s climate pledges of phasing out of coal by the end of the decade.  However, even the country’s environmentalists agree that coal is the quickest and the most effective way to answer to the energy crisis. 


One would think that the UK wasn’t hit as severely by the energy crisis as it’s continental neighbors, as only 7% of the country’s gas came from Russia. However, according to Ofgem, the energy regulator of the UK, Brits are facing a 80% rise in their energy bill this winter. Consequently, the UK has the highest energy bills in Europe, just after Czech Republic. 

What explains UK’s high energy prices? Before 2021, Britons energy bills where cheaper than other Europeans. However, although the UK doesn’t import much gas from Russia, it’s still heavily dependent on natural gas, as the country has less nuclear and renewable energy. Hence, when global demand for natural gas soars, so do the prices.

Moreover, according to energy experts the best solution out of high prices would be a large-scale and fast move towards renewables, as well as a short time support program for British bill payers. These measures are needed, as, according to the Guardian, the poorest 10% is expected to spend around 17.8% of their budget on energy in 2022. 

As the war in Ukraine seems to prevail, European countries need to adjust to this new normal. The energy crisis, however, is also an opportunity to permanently move towards more sustainable energy consumption. France’s policy is a good example for the rest of Europe, and hopefully other countries are soon to follow. 

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