Can Israel help wean Europe off Russian gas? - opinion

Israeli climate-tech companies may join both global and European efforts to reduce the level of consumption of Russia’s gas.

 A PICTURE taken by a drone using a slow shutter speed shows pipes at the landfall facilities of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, last month.  (photo credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)
A PICTURE taken by a drone using a slow shutter speed shows pipes at the landfall facilities of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, last month.
(photo credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)

After a decades-long hiatus, war has once more erupted in Europe, reminding us all that the scenes we are used to seeing from ill-fated regions in the Middle East or developing countries can also appear in the old continent. The present war will have many consequences, particularly for the European and global energy markets.

Russia is one of the largest suppliers of gas to Western Europe and literally “controls the valve” that warms houses in winter and drives industry in Europe. About 40% of Europe’s gas supply comes from Russia. Similarly, about 27% of Europe’s crude oil imports – approximately 6 million barrels a day – come from Russia.

At a press conference, the US president’s declaration that his country will boycott Russia’s gas and ban imports led Britain to join the boycott; together with the suspension of the Nord Stream 2 project – the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany – the West is trying to put insurmountable pressure on Russian President Vladamir Putin to stop the war that he declared on Ukraine.

It’s clear to us all that the West will need to find new sources of energy to provide warmth to its citizens during winter and to set industry and the economy in motion – without being dependent on Russia’s gas. The EU has already declared that by the end of the year Europe’s dependence on Russia’s gas will be reduced by two-thirds. The Europeans plan to obtain one-third of this saving from other sources of gas – including Israel. The other third will be obtained through a few immediate steps: expanded use of biomass burning, increased production of renewable energy, reduced energy consumption for heating in the public and private sectors, improved thermal insulation of buildings and more. The likely solutions for the current crisis fulfill the urgent need to provide solutions for the climate crisis, which hit the headlines recently following the Glasgow Climate Change Conference.

 An image of Earth is projected on the venue for COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland Britain, November 1, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY) An image of Earth is projected on the venue for COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland Britain, November 1, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY)

It should be noted that heat – particularly from the combustion of gas – for residential uses, industry, agriculture, and commerce, comprises approximately 50% of all final energy consumption globally, compared to only 20% of the energy provided through electricity grids. The way to reduce dependence on Russia’s gas, therefore, requires a focus on heat, which these days is generally not provided by electricity.

Israeli climate-tech companies may join both global and European efforts to reduce the level of consumption of Russia’s gas. Israel has many accomplishments and significant technological depth in all aspects of thermal and solar thermal energy and is a global leader in the use of solar energy for residential hot water. Several leading technology companies in the field of energy generation and storage for heating and cooling currently operate in Israel, including TIGI (solar thermal systems for energy production of industrial process heat), Brenmiller (thermal energy storage) and Nostromo, (cold thermal energy storage). These and other companies may take a front seat in the effort to provide the technological solutions that Europe will need in the coming years.

Global order is being undermined by wars in Eastern Europe. In parallel, the need to act quickly to mitigate the climate crisis is becoming clearer. The world has been given the opportunity to shift gears with respect to all aspects of renewable energy and to invest thought and resources into tipping the scales with respect to our dependence on the earth’s energy sources. Even Israel has something to offer.

The writer is the CEO of TIGI – provider of renewable energy solutions for water heating and storage for industrial and commercial uses, saving energy and heating costs and reducing emissions.