by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Energy prices in Europe spiked to record highs in recent weeks as wind power production off the coast of the United Kingdom plummeted.
The wind has stopped blowing in the North Sea, where Britain holds the bulk of its offshore wind farms. The resulting shortage in wind-energy production has driven a surge in fossil fuel prices as European countries seek to compensate for the energy shortfall through other sources, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Electricity prices, which had already been on the rise this year, doubled in Britain in September, from £171 per megawatt-hour at the beginning of the month to a peak of £332 per megawatt-hour last week, according to Independent Commodity Intelligence Services. Electricity prices in Britain had been as low as £12 per megawatt-hour in early 2020.
The shortage has seen energy price surges ripple across Europe, including in France, the Netherlands, and Germany, the Journal reported. Britain’s electric utility provider has asked a power company to restart its coal power station to lighten the burden on the country’s energy supply.
Britain has invested heavily in wind power over the last two decades, with the energy source accounting for nearly 25 percent of electricity production in 2020. The country plans to fully phase out coal energy production by 2024.
One expert told the Journal a similar wind downturn could pose an even greater threat to the electricity sector if it were to occur in winter when Europe’s energy demand spikes.
“If this were to happen in winter when we’ve got significantly higher demand, then that presents a real issue for system stability,” energy economist Stefan Konstantinov said.
Imagine that: Reliance on blowing wind is a less-than-ideal strategy for meeting day-to-day, hour-by-hour energy needs. Perhaps Europe should focus instead on 24-hour access to a shining sun. Oh, wait. Never mind.