Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The amount of gas coming from Azerbaijan over the next few months is almost three times what Britain gets from Norway
How could this week’s Russia-Ukraine dispute over gas be blamed on a lack of rain?
It turns out that Europe was already facing a serious crisis in meeting demand as rapidly rising temperatures caused a huge spike in energy consumption.
And experts say the frozen response to yesterday’s crisis suggests Europe is “completely unprepared for a prolonged period of exceptional weather”.
England and Wales were among the countries hardest hit.
Cyprus, Ireland, Sweden, Hungary, Slovenia, Portugal, Denmark, Austria, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Hungary, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Greece, Romania, Italy, France, Cyprus, Sweden, Malta, Poland, and Hungary all suffered power outages.
Dr Jess Smith, at the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said there was no way to predict what would happen if weather conditions persisted like this in the coming weeks.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Maria, a firefighter, prays as she takes shelter in a hotel ballroom in Rome
“The coming months will present an exceptionally difficult and highly unpredictable challenge to Europe,” he said.
“New low and average temperatures have brought extreme winter-like weather across the continent.”
“This will add significant pressure to winter gas reserves, as will the high levels of heat-generating renewable energy, increasing the likelihood of storage acting as a last resort.”
Dr Smith said the risk of a gas shortage “could be very high indeed”.
“The region faces an increasing risk of severe supply shortfalls in the coming months, in which point the risk of gas disruption would increase dramatically.”
If a winter shortage were to occur, it would have serious consequences across Europe.
Gas comprises 45% of energy used in Europe, while lignite, coal and renewable energy make up around 35%, according to Eurostat.
Dr Joachim Kuhl, head of gas and energy policy at Germany’s department of gas, renewables and energy efficiency, said at the World Gas Conference in Vienna earlier this month: “Our communication with our consumers and customers is very intensive at the moment.
“They know the market is safe, their contracts are safe.
“I would say that about 75% of the contracts are already signed, and I expect that the remaining 25% will be in good shape by the end of the summer.”
Impact on the UK
As the UK is the largest gas supplier in Europe, gas companies including Centrica and SSE are already struggling to meet demand, particularly as temperatures are expected to stay hot and hot.
SSE has admitted it will be at a “disadvantage” in helping to meet the government’s energy challenge by September, if temperatures keep rising.
Britain is already forecast to be hit by a freezing winter and campaigners have urged the government to speed up investment in energy networks, and step up its efforts to prepare the UK for the switch to more renewable energy in the coming years.