Europe’s manufacturers are rapidly losing ground to US rivals because of soaring energy costs and the failure of the continent’s governments to be “rational” about nuclear power and shale gas, the head of one of the world’s biggest chemicals groups has warned. Link
The result is chaos to the economic well-being of the EU nations. Even in rock-solid Germany, up to 15% of the populace is now believed to be in “fuel poverty” — defined by governments as needing to spend more than 10% of the total household income on electricity and gas. Some 600,000 low-income Germans are now being cut off by their power companies annually, a number expected to increase as a never-ending stream of global-warming projects in the pipeline wallops customers. In the U.K., which has laboured under the most politically correct climate leadership in the world, some 12 million people are already in fuel poverty, 900,000 of them in wind-infested Scotland alone, and the U.K. has now entered a double-dip recession.
The U.S., in contrast, will see power rates decline starting next year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, dropping by more than 22% by the end of the decade and then staying flat to 2035. Why the fall? Mainly because the U.S. will rely overwhelmingly on fossil fuels in the years ahead, not just coal, which dominates the current power system, but increasingly natural gas, which is expected to account for 60% of all new generating capacity in the future. Thanks to fracking, the U.S. effectively has limitless amounts of inexpensive natural gas to add to its limitless coal. Link
Concern over rising energy bills has prompted a surge in interest in energy efficient measures among home buyers in the UK, it is claimed.
Over four fifths, 82%, of buyers now actively look for energy efficient features in a new home, according to research by Smart New Homes.
The vast majority of those, some 77%, said that saving money on their energy bills is their main motivation, compared to just 12% who prioritise concern over the environment. Link
But now it’s all over. Despite the signs, protests and pickets, ThyssenKrupp, Germany’s largest steelmaker, sold its Krefeld stainless steel mill to Finnish competitor Outukumpu two weeks ago. The new owner plans to shut down production by the end of next year, leaving more than 400 workers without a job. The economic loss to this stricken city on the lower Rhine will be significant.
The closing of the Krefeld mill cannot be blamed on low-wage competition from the Far East or mismanagement at ThyssenKrupp’s Essen headquarters, but rather on the misguided policies of the German government. That, at least, is the view held by those affected by the closing. Since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government abruptly decided to phase out nuclear energy last spring in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, the situation for industries that consume a lot of electricity has become much more tenuous.
Energy prices are rising and the risk of power outages is growing. But the urgently needed expansion of the grid, as well as the development of replacement power plants and renewable energy sources is progressing very slowly. A growing number of economic experts, business executives and union leaders are putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of Merkel’s coalition, which pairs her conservatives with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP). The government, they say, has expedited de-industrialization.
Since Merkel’s new energy policy was introduced, aluminum manufacturer Norsk Hydro has registered half a million euros in losses at its German plants because of power fluctuations. Even minimal power outages can cause the company’s sensitive rollers to seize up.
The losses could have been even greater if Hydro hadn’t already substantially cut back production in Neuss, near Düsseldorf. For more than two years, two production lines have been shut down completely, and many of the plant’s 450 workers have been working reduced hours since then. It is not, however, the result of fewer orders being placed with the Neuss plant.
Electricity and CO2-emissions costs are so high that the energy-intensive processes in the aluminum smelters is no longer profitable. Energy eats up about 50 percent of costs.
European Wind Energy Association 2010-2050 Link