Because we have to worry about gas even in the summer

Because we have to worry about gas even in the summer

The gas supply crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine triggers surprising dynamics. For example, reported how at the moment the flow of Russian gas to Europe is even increasing. But in the medium and long term it is reasonable to think that the supply from Moscow could drop drastically. And we will already be able to see the first effects of this cut in the coming summer months: not quantitatively, but in terms of prices per cubic meter.

How to request the bonus for electricity and gas bills Dedicated to citizens or families with annual Isee up to 12 thousand euros, it will be paid directly into the bill. How much you save and how to ask the question To clarify what could happen to the gas supply in the summer, interviewed Massimo Ricci, director of the Energy Division of Arera (Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and the Environment).

Renewables yes, but we will also need gas in the future A general premise: about half of our electricity is produced with gas. According to Ricci, "if we only had renewable energy, the question of being able to accumulate energy would in any case put the use of gas back in the foreground. In fact, if I have many days in which I cannot access renewable energy sources or I have little, gas remains essential ". And therefore an economic problem opens up because the accumulation of electricity through renewable sources is possible and economical on a daily basis while at the moment it is still uneconomical over longer periods. The director explains: "The low availability of renewable sources for prolonged periods (typically in the winter period) therefore requires different solutions for covering the electrical load with the use, for example, of gas plants, now conventional and potentially renewable in the future. ".

Gas: how much do we use in summer compared to winter? The main uses of gas in our country during the summer are civilian (for example, for cooking); industrial and thermoelectric (production of electricity from natural gas).

The thermoelectric is very important in the summer for the use, for example, of air conditioners. If someone believes that it is not a huge problem to have more expensive gas in the summer (assuming reduced uses), just think of the incremental use of air conditioners that we have been witnessing in recent years in July, August and September. A choice that is necessarily linked to the theme of climate change, especially in our big cities, with an aggravating circumstance: the more we use air conditioners, the more the outdoor air heats up and therefore the more we will want or need to use them. “For industries - continues Ricci - little changes in summer because the plants produce in a continuous cycle. In summary, in summer only the civil use of gas is reduced, because it is concentrated above all in winter: the other uses vary very little overall ".

So how much gas do we use less in summer? In 2020, for example, consumption between April and September was around 26% less than the annual average. For this reason, storage operations become important in the summer in order to be able to store gas, when it is less needed, to be able to use it in the winter, when it is needed more.

What could happen if we had less gas in summer? According to the Arera official, two considerations are necessary: ​​what happens at European level and the possibility of an imbalance. “As regards the first issue, the shortage of gas supply is a problem of scarcity at the European level and not at the national level. If gas were enough for everyone at a European level, the impact of the drop in supply would be zero ", says Ricci. At the moment, in fact, we have gas in abundance, but it costs a lot. Because whoever is putting it into storage knows that in the future it could cost much more and so he estimates it according to this revenue perspective. If there were an imbalance at European level, there would be a shortage of supply compared to demand: this is why storage allows us to shift scarcity over time. br>
“If I satisfy the demand in the summer without worrying about the storage, in the winter I will be in bad shape”, adds Ricci.

For this reason now we talk a lot about calibrating the use of air conditioners. because there is no gas at the moment, but if we do not also worry about filling the storage in the summer in the winter we will have supply shortages. So if we do not reduce the use of air conditioners now, in the winter we could be forced to pe nsending greater cuts on the use of energy which may, for example, also involve the industrial sector, with all the resulting problems. "The fact of saying 'I have to start saving energy from the air conditioners in the summer' could be useful in having more, in terms of gas, in the winter - also because in the summer there is generally gas while in the winter it is we need more ”, continues the manager of the Arera. According to the data, will we have less gas this summer? "No, it will only be a question of price: there is currently no supply problem. And where there is a price problem, for now both the Authority and the Government have already intervened ", explains Ricci.

How much does gas cost now and how is the price changing? At the moment, gas prices in the coming summer months are in line with the current ones. “Today gas costs us around 100 euros per megawatt hour (MWh). And at the moment, also in the coming winter, the estimated cost is 100 euros MWh. In this situation, a differential between winter and summer (which generally moves around 3-4 euros) does not move practically anything ”, says Ricci. About a year ago, the price of gas was almost a tenth: around € 15-20 per megawatt hour. But in February it had already risen to 70 euros and with the outbreak of the war it jumped well over 100 and then stabilized on current estimates.

Why did the bills go crazy already at the beginning of this year, when Russia had not yet invaded Ukraine? “The increase was not sudden, because already last summer we were around 40 euros MWh, therefore double the market price. There have been situations of 'short markets' worldwide, due to Covid and other macroeconomic causes ”, observes the representative of Arera. This is why we must be careful to think that once the war in Ukraine is resolved we will have solved the problem of the cost of supplying gas. "This is why at a European level there is a lot of pressure on the issue of storage, because last summer they were all unprepared for an increase: even in Germany, for example, they had warehouses only partially filled", he says.

And what if the gas from Russia suddenly stopped coming? The short-term alternative source would be to maximize what arrives through the regasifiers. “In terms of pipes, we have other current supplies such as the Libyan ones, which give us what they can give us, and Russia, which in fact would fail. So the great alternative is liquid gas, which in particular comes to us today from Qatar but also from the United States ".

" Today the real problem is that we would not have enough regasifiers in the short term to satisfy what we would lack from Russia ", Ricci says

It is therefore necessary to work on the terminals. In this sense, according to the director of the Energy division of Arera," the ships that regasify have some more flexibility because - despite the fixed investments required by the connection to the grid - after a few years or when we need it we could sell them or move them. "It would be of little use to invest in expanding national gas production. Our national requirement is around 70 billion cubic meters of gas a year. National production once it was 10, today just 3 billion. We could raise it by another 3 or maybe 4 billion. An effort according to Ricci that would still be worthwhile - net of the evaluation of any impacts am environmental - because, as explained at the beginning, we will still need gas in the future.

Dear Draghi, what if someone says he prefers the air conditioner? Too much simplification does not do justice to the premier: either peace or conditioner is not the way to approach the problem and lends itself to new populisms "In 20 years, according to estimates, we will certainly consume more than the national production that we could have despite the integration of renewables. And then integrating future needs with national production could be useful ”, Ricci explains, to compensate for what we will import anyway from abroad.

What can we do to reduce the use of gas in the summer? Act on electricity consumption: in particular on the use of air conditioners. This is the lever that can be worked on to tackle the problem at the national level. And given that, as we have seen, 50% of the electricity we use is produced with gas, it is necessary to adopt ordinary energy saving measures. "If we reduce electricity demand, we reduce the use of gas", concludes Ricci. Otherwise we have to cut industrial uses, but this means affecting production with all the effects we can imagine. And some industrial processes go on a continuous cycle and cannot easily (or must not) be interrupted.

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