The Weekend Wonk: Getting Europe Off Russian Gas – 10 Point Plan

March 5, 2022

45 minute press conference above. They run thru the points pretty fast, then Q and A.
Thumbnail version below.

International Energy Agency:

  1. Do not sign any new gas supply contracts with Russia. [Impact: Enables greater diversification of supply this year and beyond]
  2. Replace Russian supplies with gas from alternative sources [Impact: Increases non-Russian gas supply by around 30 billion cubic metres within a year]
  3. Introduce minimum gas storage obligations [Impact: Enhances resilience of the gas system by next winter] (per above, 90 percent full storage by first of October)
  4. Accelerate the deployment of new wind and solar projects [Impact: Reduces gas use by 6 billion cubic metres within a year]
  5. Maximise power generation from bioenergy and nuclear [Impact: Reduces gas use by 13 billion cubic metres within a year] (“may be merit” to ‘revisiting” decisions to shut down reactors)
  6. Enact short-term tax measures on windfall profits to shelter vulnerable electricity consumers from high prices [Impact: Cuts energy bills even when gas prices remain high]
  7. Speed up the replacement of gas boilers with heat pumps [Impact: Reduces gas use by an additional 2 billion cubic metres within a year]
  8. Accelerate energy efficiency improvements in buildings and industry [Impact: Reduces gas use by close to 2 billion cubic metres within a year]
  9. Encourage a temporary thermostat reduction of 1 °C by consumers [Impact: Reduces gas use by some 10 billion cubic metres within a year]
  10. Step up efforts to diversify and decarbonise sources of power system flexibility [Impact: Loosens the strong links between gas supply and Europe’s electricity security](need for more large scale storage technologies)


Here’s what McKibben suggested on his Substack, titled “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom”:

President [Joe] Biden should immediately invoke the Defense Production Act to get American manufacturers to start producing electric heat pumps in quantity, so we can ship them to Europe where they can be installed in time to dramatically lessen [Vladimir] Putin’s power. 

He points out that as of July 2021, the European electricity grid could handle 50 million heat pumps, according to the CEOs of major energy groups [via Euractiv]. McKibben says that the US couldn’t ship that many heat pumps over in just a year, but it could certainly ramp up and get going. 

(If you’re unfamiliar with how heat pumps work, manufacturer Carrier explains them here.)

According to the FEMA website, the Defense Production Act “is the primary source of presidential authorities to expedite and expand the supply of materials and services from the US industrial base needed to promote the national defense.” The shoe definitely fits, in this case.

European Consumer Organization:

Main findings:

  1. Electric heat pumps are the cheapest green heating option for consumers. Renewable district heating is also competitive in urban areas. Hydrogen boilers and hybrid heat pumps (hydrogen/electric) are the most expensive option and hydrogen will be more expensive than gas is today
  2. In cold climates, major home energy efficiency improvements deliver big financial benefits, helping to reducing energy bills. This applies in all four countries, helping to keep homes warm in winter. In warm climates, shading (e.g. the use of blinds) can cut consumption and improve comfort
  3. ‘Smart heating’ (e.g. when it’s cheaper at off-peak times) with heat pumps will reduce consumers’ heating costs by up to 25% compared to gas. This is because using electricity smartly reduces the need for investments in electricity grids. The savings could help reduce grid charges on energy bills
  4. If national governments roll out ambitious home renovation programmes, allowing many consumers to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, this could also mean lower grid tariffs (and energy bills) for all if savings are passed on to consumers
  5. But to be able to reap the benefits of lower energy bills, consumers will need financial support to help purchase a heat pump and pay for energy efficiency improvements.

Regardless of weather conditions, house type and motivations, the large majority of respondents in this study (88%) are satisfied with their switch to heat pumps, both for their wallets and their home life. In fact, 81% have seen the average level of comfort at home improve by replacing fossil fuel heaters with renewable-based heating systems.

Across the board, the conclusion was that heat pumps can deliver the same, if not more, comfort than gas/oil boilers, as long as the house is properly insulated and the heating systems are adapted. Moreover, the heat pumps even cool down the homes for the hot summers.

While many respondents were environmentally motivated in their switch to heat pumps and break away from fossil fuel/gas boilers (especially in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK), many users also made the switch to reduce their energy bills, and to reduce the hassle with traditional heating (e.g. getting rid of the oil or biomass supply). 

Switching to heat pumps has resulted in relatively similar operating costs for heating in most regions, including in cold climates. 64% of respondents found that the switch to heat pump has been economical, and even in cases of slightly higher running costs, the impact of prices on comfort and satisfaction was low.

4 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: Getting Europe Off Russian Gas – 10 Point Plan”

  1. NOT #5 Nuclear.

    We just had a demonstration of one of the very real risks of nuclear plants when Russia (?) fired on the one in Ukraine. And as the world heats up and becomes unlivable what if people need to abandon nuclear plants, because workers can no longer live nearby to keep the cooling systems intact and functioning. NO Nukes!

    Even as a whole species, we cannot guarantee the virtually “in perpetuity” care they require to ensure that they do not poison the environment.

    Marge Forslin, Marquette

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      At this point new nuclear power plants have become unfeasible as an energy source in much of the world, especially in the face of options that can be built faster and more cheaply. France used to have bragging rights for its old nuclear power plants, but is now having the same cost and schedule overruns as in many other places.

      BTW, for any environmental problem nuclear power plants introduce, coal plants in much of the world are far, far worse, including from radioactive particles in coal smoke that come in direct contact with live cells in the lungs rather than in a form that can be washed off of skin or kept a distance from. For that matter, much of the fauna in the radioactive part of the Chernobyl zone seem to be doing fairly well because humans are keeping their distance.

  2. John Kane Says:

    Items 1, 2, 3.
    Ah, just where is that gas coming from? BTW, not signing contracts with Russia seem to have allowed the spot market prices to go crazy.

    Love the heat pump idea.

    @ Marge Forslin, Marquette
    Latest reports seems to suggest a Ukrainian team ambushing the Russians and an outlying building set on fire by accident (or for publicity?). Neither side is stupid enough to use heavy artillery near a NPP.

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “President Biden should immediately invoke the Defense Production Act …to get American manufacturers to start producing electric heat pumps in quantity, so we can ship them to Europe where they can be installed in time to dramatically lessen Putin’s power.”

    I’m chary of this “command economy” approach to making consumer goods for other countries.

    I don’t think it would take much of an increase in Europe heat pump unit supply to hit other limiting factors, like technicians available to install them, or the number of homeowners or landlords who can currently afford to pay for the device and installation, or electricians available to upgrade home electrical systems to take the additional load. I can readily imagine news reports of overstocked European warehouses because consumption hit a bottleneck. In terms of the dynamics, I think it would be much more effective and organic for Europe itself to demand more heat pumps (buying from manufacturers that already sell models compatible with European power standards, code, etc.), and let the manufacturers scale up to get the business.

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