The upcoming cold winter in Europe makes Europeans think about revising the strategy for achieving carbon neutrality
Published by Le Figaro, the statement made by the French Minister of Economy, Finance and Reconstruction, at first glance, looks sensational. In his article, Bruno Le Maire states that only the expansion of nuclear energy can protect Europe from “energy price volatility”. For this, nuclear power plants should be moved from the category of “harmful types of generation subject to reduction, and even complete elimination” to the status of completely “green sources”. On the grounds that they do not emit greenhouse gases in their work.
Commentators especially note the fact that the position of the Frenchman was openly supported by the Prime Ministers, Ministers of Economy and Ministers of Energy of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, Croatia and the Czech Republic, having seen in this a supposedly clear trend towards the return of the European leadership to adequacy in the energy field.
However, if we go beyond primitive fetishism and read the French minister’s proposal more carefully, we can see that this is nothing more than hysterical populism.
No, if we consider energy really systematically, without a political and ideological component, everything looks right. Nuclear power plants really do not emit carbon dioxide. So formally, they can be considered absolutely “green” with good reason.
And that the current crisis with energy prices is caused by too much “intermittent generation” is also true. Unlike a wind farm or a solar power plant, the operation of a nuclear reactor does not depend in any way on the number of sunny days per year or the length of time when the wind blows strongly enough.
The “old rusty mine” lies elsewhere. Even when faced with the overt and obvious consequences of the implementation of the “long-term green strategy”, the European leadership still categorically refuses to recognise the fallacy of its basic postulates. First and foremost, two key ones.
The first is about the need to reduce European dependence on energy imports to zero at any cost. The second is about the obligation to bring the European energy industry to full “carbon neutrality” no later than “in eight years”, that is, by 2030.
The problem is the following. Firstly, it is impossible even theoretically to build a power system with a highly time-varying volume of energy consumption (for example, according to the daily cycle) on the basis of only one nuclear power plant. Nuclear reactors have too high inertia, it is physically impossible to manoeuvre the output power of a nuclear power plant as quickly as gas generators do.
Secondly, the concept of “green energy transition” now adopted in Europe is rigidly aimed at bringing the share of renewable energy sources to at least 70-80% of their total volume already in 2030. Moreover, this goal is postulated by a real “sacred cow”, which is not something to be attempted in any way, it cannot be questioned at all.
So, although the statement of Bruno Le Maire gives the impression “that they have finally come to their senses there,” in fact, the minister confirms both of the above basic postulates as indisputable. That is, he seems to suggest “recognising nuclear power plants as green”, but at the same time considers it right to somehow cram them into the procrustean bed of the “anti-carbon” concept. Ignoring the obvious fact of incompatibility of “round with square”.
And this is a very bad sign. He bluntly says that problems with the adequacy of world perception exist not only at the level of the masses, but also among the top leadership of the European Union. Even when faced with the obvious, it continues to try to “look for the fifth corner”.
However, there is still hope for the sobering effect of the upcoming cold winter. But it is, admittedly, rather illusory.