Energy CEO calls out Europe’s ‘silly’ dependence on natural gas

Enel’s Francesco Starace photographed throughout the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on May 24, 2022. During an interview with CNBC on Friday, Starace stated dependence on gas was “foolish.”

Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The CEO of Italian vitality agency Enel advised CNBC Friday that Europe’s dependence on natural gas was “foolish” and argued {that a} decreased reliance on fossil fuels represented a greater possibility in the long term.

“I think we have finally understood how hooked we were on gas, how foolish this dependence is, and how we can fix this,” Francesco Starace, who was talking to CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick, stated.

During an interview on the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy it was put to Starace that, in some individuals’s view, oil and gas can be key for vitality over the following 25 years, a rivalry he disputed.

“I totally disagree, because this is a view that is coming from, say, 15 years ago,” he stated. “Was that wrong at that time? No, it was not. Now it’s wrong.”  

“The economy can work much better, relying much less on fossil fuels, than people think,” he went on so as to add. “It will take maybe another two years before everybody understands that — but we are there.”

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Despite this optimism in regards to the future, at the moment’s actuality on the bottom is vastly difficult.

The present state of affairs in Europe, the place many nations are trying to wean themselves off Russian vitality following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, illustrates the essential function fossil fuels nonetheless play in society.

With colder months closing in, European nations have been seeking to shore up gas storage in a bid to make sure safety of provide.

Looking forward, Enel’s Starace expressed confidence Europe had ready for the approaching winter.

“Insofar as storage is concerned, Europe … did the right thing,” he stated, noting that the majority nations had been “pretty full.”

“Now, the question is what happens if gas is cut altogether from Russia,” Starace went on to state. “Well, we’re almost there, the cut is actually almost there.”

“We have a view, and there are many studies showing that with some sacrifices, [such as] two notches of temperature down, and a little bit of attention to gas consumptions … Europe can make it through the wintertime.”

“The question is when we get to the spring [of] 2023 with totally depleted, really, reserves, and gas is still not flowing,” he stated.

“Is Europe able to re-establish the storage, with all the backup of floating regasifiers and energy coming from other parts of the world? I think that’s going to be the big challenge.”

The Enel Group — whose essential shareholder is the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance — has stated it should abandon gas technology by 2040. It additionally plans to depart the retail gas market in 2040.

European issues

Starace’s feedback got here on the identical day that the EU’s local weather chief, Frans Timmermans, hammered residence the urgency of the state of affairs going through European economies within the face of rising vitality costs and issues about provide.

“We need to do everything we can to face this energy crisis and to make sure that we do everything we can to reduce the prices so that our citizens can still afford to heat their homes this winter,” Timmermans, who was talking to CNBC’s Silvia Amaro at an occasion in Bali, Indonesia, stated.

He additionally harassed the significance of member states being “in a position to address the issue of windfall profits, if necessary.”

“So we’ll try everything to make sure that our energy markets are functioning, and are functioning in a way that addresses the issues that we need to tackle.”

Timmermans was requested if “doing everything” meant the EU agreeing, within the quick time period, to imposing caps on the value of gas and electrical energy.

“Well, nothing’s off the table right now,” he replied. “We’re preparing all of that, but we have to make sure that what we do doesn’t create more damage than it helps us address the issue.”

“So we have to be extremely careful. It took us 30 years to build the energy markets, so we need to make sure we address today’s issue without creating long term problems.”

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