EU energy crisis

Tabetha DeGroot — Staff writer spending the semester overseas and writing about her experiences while abroad.

Zwolle, Netherlands – Exchange student Maddie Kobes wakes up shivering in her new Dutch home. She musters the energy to get out of bed and shuffles to the bathroom, which is also cold. A few blessed moments of a hot shower pass, then she is back on the icy tile. After breakfast with her host family in the kitchen, which is heated by a wood burning fireplace, she heads to school. The hallways are drafty, and body heat alone keeps the classrooms warm. It is a typical, but chilly, day in the Netherlands, an unexpected consequence of war.

An energy crisis has hit the European Union. Due to Russia cutting off its resources from the EU, and vice versa, the price of gas has rocketed, causing luxuries like heated buildings to become a thing of the past.

Energy costs have nearly doubled all over Europe compared to a year ago.

“Gas prices in Rome, Luxembourg, Lisbon, Dublin, Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Bern, Copenhagen, and Stockholm reached new, record highs,” according to Euronews. “In Rome, gas costs increased by 97 percent last month and more than 170 percent compared to one year ago. Price hikes of 64 percent and 58 percent were recorded in Luxembourg City and Lisbon respectively.”

Paul Bredewout has been living in Zwolle, Netherlands for over ten years, and has never seen gas bills this high.

“It is now three or four times more than what we used to pay,” Bredewout said. “It was about 30 euros per square meter, and it went up to 300.”

After World War II, oil was found in the northern part of the Netherlands, which has supplied the country with gas for many years according to Bredewout.

“The whole country was organized on gas because it was very cheap,” Bredewout said.

However, in the last 20 years, gas mining has caused earthquakes, destroying homes and buildings and putting an end to the drilling. This led the Netherlands to become dependent on imported gas, primarily from the Russian pipeline Nord Stream1.

Within a year, the EU has completely cut off its use of Russian gas. This poses new problems.

“If you cut off one of your major suppliers, you have to get it from somewhere else,” Bredewout said.

Much of the EU’s gas is being shipped from the US in the form of liquified natural gas (LNG), which is much more expensive.

In the Netherlands, people have begun seeking out alternative energy sources. Natural resources like wind and solar power have become almost a quarter of what is used.

“New buildings do not have any gas connection anymore,” Bredewout said. “They use wind energy and ground heating.”

The problem with solar panels is that the Netherlands is not sunny this time of year, when people also need more heat. The houses in the Netherlands and most of Europe are old. The Bredewout family lives in a brick house that is almost 100 years old. The heating and cooking systems are all based on gas. Putting electric systems in these houses is very expensive, and takes work. Most buildings are also not insulated.

“The advantage of higher energy prices is that people become more aware of it and don’t consume it just because it’s available,” Bredewout said. “They turn the heat down a bit because it will save them €200 a month. A lot of people can’t afford heating anymore, so they have to. In the last year the consumption of energy went down very quickly.”

Kobes has learned to adapt to her Netherlands home.

“I try to stay in the living room where the fire is and I just wear lots of sweaters and socks,” Kobes said.

When it comes to her Dutch host family, she thinks they have somewhat adjusted, too.

“My host family is always wearing sweaters and the kids are often under blankets,” Kobes said. “They just accept it.”

Contributed photo

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