by Brittany Raymer
Former Digital Writer & Editor
As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to drag on, Europe’s energy crisis is beginning to deepen. The reliance on unreliable green energy at the expense of energy independence has crippled the ability of many countries to produce enough energy to keep the lights on and homes warm. Will the United States and North Carolina experience a similar crisis in the coming years?
For the twelfth time in the last six years, the United Kingdom considered activating the National Grid’s emergency plan, which would offer families discounts if they tried to cut their peak-time electricity usage. This would conserve electricity in a time where most people desperately need this.
Despite many news reports and the concerns for heat waves in the summer, the cold is far more deadly than the heat.
There are two reasons for this latest energy crunch, and both are critical to the energy debate. The first is that France is struggling to support its crumbling nuclear power infrastructure, which also supplies power to the U.K., and the second is the lack of strong winds that made it difficult for the turbines to work and generate electricity.
This is an interesting juxtaposition. While there is a great need for greater expansion into nuclear power, which is relatively stable and powerful, for decades Europe embraced an aggressive green energy policy. As part of this effort, nuclear power was considered “bad,” and many stations were dismantled or in the process of being dismantled over the ensuing years. Though outwardly pursuing a green energy policy, Russian natural gas was the energy source really fueling many countries.
When the war with Ukraine broke out, that caused many in the continent to reassess their reliance on natural gas, especially as Russia could use it as a threat or bargaining chip by arbitrarily cutting off its supply.
But before the war broke out, in 2018 French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the country wanted to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy from 72% down to 50% by 2030 or 2035. This would mean closing at least 14 of the country’s reactors. At the time, the country planned to move towards green energy sources like wind and solar power.
But that dream is mostly dead.
Now France is scrambling to try and get its nuclear program back up and running. This means hiring welders, pipe-fitters and boiler makers to fix some of its aging nuclear facilities and to build more of them. Currently, the country is relying on the United States and Canada to help get its nuclear industry back on its feet.
This mess is a warning for the United States and North Carolina, which are both following a similar path.
In North Carolina specifically, Gov. Roy Cooper wants the state to create a wind turbine farm off the coast. But as the U.K. proves, what happens if there isn’t enough wind for the turbines to turn? Research has also shown that hurricanes can destroy wind turbines.