A group gathers to protest energy bills in London on December 3, 2022. Rasid Necati Aslim / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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UK residents should not expect their gas and electricity bills to return to pre-pandemic levels, the chief executive of one of Europe’s largest energy companies told the BBC in a widely reported interview.
Speaking first at the World Economic Forum, which started on Monday in Davos, Equinor’s leader Anders Opedal said that the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the global response to the climate crisis are fundamentally changing in the status quo.
“We are seeing a rewiring of the entire European energy system,” Opedal told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, as reported by The Guardian. “We need more renewables. It requires a lot of investment and these investments need to be paid for. I believe that the energy bills [ultimately] may be a little higher than in the past but not as quickly as now.”
Gas prices began to rise after the end of the coronavirus lockdowns and then rose further after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent reduction in gas supplies in Europe, explained BBC News. The UK is particularly vulnerable to the effects of this spike as it relies on gas for a larger share of its energy supply than other European countries. About 85 percent of homes are heated by gas boilers and about 40 percent of their electricity comes from gas, according to the London School of Economics. At the same time, its houses are relatively poorly insulated.
In the winter of 2021, the average annual energy bill in the country will be around £1,000. It would have risen to more than £3,500 by October 2022 without government intervention. As it stands, with government assistance the annual average bill is now £2,500 a year and will jump again to £3,000 in April, according to The Guardian.
While gas prices have so far fallen to pre-invasion levels, partly due to warmer-than-expected weather, home and business gas and electricity bills are still high, BBC News reports as Opedal said they were unlikely to return to the previous average of £1,300 a year. Instead, he called for a change in how energy is viewed.
“I think we have to consider energy as something that is not abundant. It actually has a value,” Opedal said on the BBC’s Today program, as reported by the Press Association. “I think we have a lot of cheap that energy before and we may have wasted some of it. So, to make sure we make the right investment everyone wants to use as little energy as possible. “
While Opedal said that financing the transition to renewable energy will increase the bill, other climate experts argue that high energy prices are a consequence of relying on imported fossil fuels instead of domestic renewable energy.
“While climate contrarians try to pin rising energy bills on ‘net zero costs,’ in reality they are crippling prices, along with growing climate impacts and cynical despotism of Putin, the amount is not zero,” the senior associate of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. Richard Black writes for Climate Home News.
Norwegian-based Equinor makes most of its profits from oil and gas, according to BBC News. It itself did not suffer during the energy crisis, reporting record profits due to high prices along with other major fossil fuel companies. It made $24.3 billion before tax between July and September of 2022, up $9.7 billion from the same period in 2021.