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Europe Preps for Winter
News Bytes 09/26/2022 3 Comments

Many folks in Europe are facing an energy crisis this winter. With costs high and energy supplies tight, some countries are rolling out relief programs—and planning to shake up electricity and natural gas markets.

These days, offices in some of Europe’s history-rich cities are getting chillier. Statues and famous buildings are going dark. Businesses feel the crunch too.

Richard Kovacs is the business development manager for Hungarian burger chain Zing Burger. The chain’s stores are facing a 750% increase in electricity bills since the beginning of the year. The restaurants already run the grills no more than necessary and use motion detectors to turn off lights in storage.

But “we can’t turn off the lights and make our guests sit in the dark,” Kovacs says.

Europe’s dependence on Russian energy has turned the war in Ukraine into an energy and economic crisis, with prices rising to record highs in recent months and fluctuating wildly.

In response, governments work hard to find new supplies and conserve energy. Gas storage facilities are now 86% full ahead of the winter heating season—beating the goal of 80% by November. Many nations have committed to lower gas use by 15%, meaning the Eiffel Tower will plunge into darkness over an hour earlier than normal while shops and buildings shut off lights at night or lower thermostats.

Even if there is gas this winter, high prices are already pushing people and businesses to use less and forcing some energy-intensive businesses to close.

It’s a decision facing Dutch fruit and vegetable growers who are key to Europe’s winter food supply: Shutter greenhouses or take a loss after costs for gas heating and electric light skyrocket.

Bosch Growers, which grows green peppers and blackberries, has put up extra insulation, idled one greenhouse, and experimented with lower temperatures.

Wouter van den Bosch, the sixth generation of his family to help run the business, says, “We are in survival mode.”

Bakers like Andreas Schmitt in Frankfurt, Germany, face the hard reality that conservation only goes so far.

Schmitt is heating fewer ovens at his 25 bakeries, running them longer to spare startup energy. He’s also narrowing his pastry selection to ensure ovens run full and storing less dough to cut refrigeration costs.

“It’s not going to shift the world,” he says, since the bulk of his costs is “the energy required to get dough to bread, and that is a given quantity of energy.”

Governments have lined up additional gas supply from pipelines running to Norway and Azerbaijan. They’ve also ramped up their purchases of expensive liquefied natural gas that comes by ship, largely from the United States.

As countries scramble to replace Russian fossil fuels and even reactivate polluting coal-fired power plants, environmentalists and the EU itself say renewables are the way out long term.

In Bulgaria, the poorest of the EU’s 27 members, surging energy costs are forcing families to cut extra spending ahead of winter to ensure there is money to buy food and medicine.

More than a quarter of Bulgaria’s population can’t afford to heat their homes, according to EU statistics office Eurostat.

Experts are unsure whether reduction measures will be enough to avoid government-imposed rationing and rolling blackouts after Russian natural gas cutbacks after Russia’s Ukraine invasion.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is upbeat. He said this month that early preparations mean Europe’s biggest economy is “now in a position in which we can go bravely and courageously into this winter, in which our country will withstand this.”

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. — Proverbs 6:6-8

(Bread is displayed in one of Ernst’s bakery branches in Neu Isenburg, Germany, on Monday, September 19, 2022. AP/Michael Probst)

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Most recent comments

1st Comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, I do not think would go to a restaurant where I was in the dark about the food! XD
Also, that bread looks really good!!!!!!!

2nd Comment

Wow, upping by 750%!? Yikes that sounds like a high bill! Yeah I would probably be trying to find ways to cut down my electricity uses. I don't what know batteries are costing these days in Europe, but I wonder if they could do something with battery powered lights or even solar powered, so they don't use lights in the day other than natural light, and then somehow have batter or solar lamps or string lights at night. I know it wouldn't be super bright, but it might give it a nice feeling, a bit like a candlelight dinner, and I think people would be understanding.
@Belwyn: Yeah that bread does look so good!!!!

that bread looks very good!

that bread looks very good!

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