Why renewable energy sources are better than LNG to replace Russian gas. Le Monde report

According to an article in Le Monde, using renewable energy instead of new gas supplies would be a faster and cheaper way to replace Russian fuel.

Like a movie about wartime double standards, Russia continues to pay Ukraine, which is tearing up the “rent” (apparently $2 billion in 2020, or about 1.84 billion euros) to use pipelines to the European Union (EU). EU countries, which impose economic sanctions on Russia and in some cases supply Ukraine with weapons, continue to pay Russian invaders for their gas – 155 billion cubic meters in 2021, which is almost half of their gas imports.

The moral dilemma facing the EU can be resolved in several ways: Putin could cut off supplies; A Middle Eastern or Texan oilman could hire mercenaries to blow up Ukrainian pipelines…and price oil and gas at the same time; The Ukrainian government could, in a desperate move, blow up the pipelines themselves.

expensive liquefied gas

But none of the announced plans so far seem to be able to solve this dilemma. On March 25, the European Commission and Washington announced that they could replace 20 million units of Russian gas (out of 155) this year with new wind and solar projects. In eight years (!) the European Union will put an end to Russian gas imports by tripling its wind and solar capacity to 170 million cubic feet. Will there be anything left of Ukraine by then?

On March 24, Joe Biden promised to deliver about 15 MMC of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the European Union this year. The EU is also looking at alternative sources of LNG and contracting regasification plants to floating gas.

But replacing the relatively cheap gas delivered by a pipeline with expensive LNG delivered by an LNG carrier requires the construction of gas-to-gas regasification stations. The Dunkirk plant took six years to build and cost one billion euros. In other words, building more will not help resolve the current crisis in the short term.

However, the EU’s energy independence plan announced on March 8 did not mention the construction of a new nuclear power plant to address this crisis. And for good reason: although Finland’s first European EPR reactor just produced the first 100 megawatts of electricity in March 2022, the project was launched thirteen years ago, in 2005, and cost about 11 billion euros. Instead of 3.4 billion in the beginning. Expected…

From $26 to $50 per MWh

So the real solution is clearly visible. The fastest and cheapest power systems to be built in a wartime emergency are wind power systems and ground-based solar power systems. This is abundantly clear in the figures published by investment bank Lazard (“Planar cost of energy, Planned cost of storage, Planned cost of hydrogen,” October 28, 2021).

Not only are onshore wind turbines the cheapest, priced between $26 and $50 per megawatt-hour (MWh), but, like solar, they are very quick to build. According to Windeurope.org, the main European trade association of the major wind energy players (Vestas, Orsted, Ziemens-Gamesa, Acciona, Equinor, EDF, Engie…), “A 10 MW wind farm can be easily built in two months. A larger wind farm with a capacity of 50 MW can be built in six months.

Solar energy takes less time. In addition, the European Union has many of the largest and most important manufacturers of wind turbines, wind farms and power cables.

The most widely used solar power has a similar cost to onshore wind, according to Lazard — anywhere from $30 to $41 per megawatt-hour. In wartime, the best energy sources are local, with no external energy required. Like the sun and the wind.

For reasons of national security

However, as we have seen, the European Commission is still looking for imported emergency solutions. However, Lazard gave a lower price cap for natural gas-fired electricity in 2021 of $45 to $74 per megawatt-hour. While gas is generally more expensive than wind or solar power, it can make up for times when there is no wind or sun.

But Lazard based his analysis on a natural gas price of $3.45/MMBtu (British thermal unit; 1 million Btu = 0.293071 MWh), roughly the price in the US in 2021. But the price paid by the European Union Arriving at port in Germany in November 2021, before the war, it was $27.20/MMBtu, nearly eight times what it is in the US! This cannot be a contingency strategy in wartime…

The real emergency solution to replace Russian natural gas on a European scale, for reasons of national security, is the construction of huge wind and photovoltaic power plants. And in order to fill in the appropriate gaps, we will have to use existing nuclear power, other gases that we can find and, as a last resort, coal.

Political leaders must begin to act like leaders and explain firmly: We are at war, even if it is not declared, and we must stop trading with the enemy.

(Translated from the English by Isabel Platt; excerpt from eprcomunicazione press review)

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