Countries across Europe are witnessing warmer-than-expected weather on the first days of the year. Experts said that while Vladimir Putin’s plans to punish Europe have been thwarted, cold weather or delays in deliveries could still play spoilsport
With Russia cutting energy exports to Europe in the aftermath of its Ukraine invasion, the continent has been bracing itself for high energy prices and a harsh winter.
But a variety of factors including milder than expected weather are putting paid to Vladmir Putin’s plans.
Let’s take a closer look:
According to Bloomberg, various reasons including the weather, increased suppliers of gas, efforts to tamp down demand, enough gas reserves and prices being at levels prior to the Ukraine war are helping Europe.
According to Scientific American, Europe weather stations recorded their highest January temperatures ever on the first day of the year.
This occurred due to a warm air mass moving from Africa’s west coast to Europe.
Climatologist Maximiliano Herrera told the outlet Germany alone broke almost a thousand records on the first days of the new year. Europe itself saw thousands of more records broken with Herrera describing the warm weather as “probably one of the most intense ever seen.”
France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands were hardest-hit while Luxembourg, Poland and Belarus also broke records.
Herrera said some weather stations witnessed temperatures higher than their July averages.
London-based meteorologist Scott Duncan blamed several factors including an ongoing La Niña event, parts of the North Pacific and the Mediterranean being unusually warm, and of course, climate change.
“Our warming atmosphere and oceans are ultimately making temperature records easier to break and undoubtedly played a role,” Duncan told Scientific American via email.
As per Fortune, the world’s biggest energy customers now have enough reserves to feel comfortable.
Germany, through a mix of warmer weather and lower activity during the holidays, increased its gas stocks to above 90 per cent full.
Meanwhile in Europe, gas storage is 84 per cent full – that’s way above the five-year average of 70 per cent, as per Fortune.
This is because the EU has managed to reduce gas demand, develop new facilities for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and import more fuel from the US and Qatar, as per Newsweek.
Industry in the EU has cut its consumption by a fifth without significantly reducing its output, Henning Gloystein, director of energy, climate and resources at the Eurasia Group, told the outlet.
Gloystein added that warmer weather and higher costs have made families curb consumption.
“It means Mr Putin’s plans to sow discord in the EU by driving up prices and causing potential shortages have failed,” Gloystein told Newsweek.
“Putin had bad luck this year, it’s really warm in Europe,” energy and geopolitical analyst Thomas O’Donnell told Newsweek.
“His leverage is mainly in the short term, and he decided to use it before he loses it,” he added. “Basically, he’s got to pray for bad weather.”
What was feared?
Experts said the worst-case scenario was a ‘super cold winter’ in Europe.
Adam Pankratz, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, pointed out to Al Jazeera that Europe lacked a supply of natural resources.
“The worst economic scenario is that the European economy goes into an absolute freefall … because they can’t produce anything, because it’s too expensive … and the government prioritises sending gas for heating people’s houses rather than industry,” Pankratz said.
“The other worst-case scenario is that they actually run out of gas, and people can’t heat their homes, but I don’t foresee that probably happening,” he added.
Experts had warned that an increase in utility bills, unemployment numbers and a slowdown could send people into the streets.
Pankratz added that Europe’s problem was that it didn’t have time.
“[It’s saying] I need an LNG import facility or a nuclear reactor in a few years; well that’s like saying I need it tomorrow morning … It’s got to happen really fast, and these things are very complicated,” he added.
‘Economic meltdown averted’
Experts said such conditions, if they continue to prevail, would blunt inflation and steady economic conditions.
“The danger of a complete economic meltdown, a core meltdown of European industry, has — as far as we can see — been averted,” German economy minister Robert Habeck was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
“We are very optimistic, which we weren’t really back in the fall,” Klaus Mueller, head of Germany’s network regulator, was quoted as saying on Friday. “The more gas we have in storage facilities at the beginning of the year, the less stress and cost we will face in filling them again for next winter.”
But they nevertheless warn that cold weather or delay in deliveries could roil markets.
Experts told Fortune fuel prices could shoot up and inventory drained by late-winter cold weather.
Utilities also need to start planning for next winter while accounting for the absence of Russian fuel.
With inputs from agencies
This article originally appeared on https://www.firstpost.com/ and was reproduced here with permission