EU fossil fuel reserves dwindling, according to report

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Hot on the heels of last week’s call for European leaders to harness more renewables to lessen the European Union’s dependancy on fossil fuel imports, a controversial report has painted a stark picture of the home-grown oil, coal and gas reserves left some member states.

Figures prepared by the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University claim the U.K. has only 5.2 years’ worth of oil reserves left, only 4.5 years of coal and only three years’ worth of gas.

Those figures – in a study dismissed as ‘nonsense’ by a spokesman for the U.K. government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), according to a report run by the BBC News website on Friday – compare with Russia’s 50 years’ worth of gas supplies, more than a century’s worth of gas and estimated coal reserves that would last more than 500 years.

Elsewhere the study, produced by the Cambridge and Chelmsford-based university, claims France has less than a year’s domestic supply of each fossil fuel, Germany has less than a year’s supply of oil but 250 years’ worth of coal and Bulgaria has enough coal to fire it for another 34 years.

Reports echoes letter to EC leaders

The report’s authors claim their figures show the need to diversify U.K. energy generation by incorporating a growing share of renewables, echoing last week’s call by a string of European renewables associations – including the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) – to incorporate more sustainable energy generation into the political bloc’s energy mix.

An open letter issued by the renewables associations to European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and Council president Herman van Rompuy on Tuesday stated the political crisis in Ukraine illustrated why the EU’s energy mix needs to be less dependent on imports from Russia.

The letter says plans to introduce different supply routes, better cooperation and fuel storage are short-term fixes and need to be bolstered by a drive to integrate more renewables.

The associations, writing ahead of Thursday’s informal meeting of EC energy ministers to discuss the implications of events in Ukraine, called for the EC to invest more in the infrastructure needed to incorporate renewables, to encourage more energy efficient policies and to raise renewables targets.

The letter pointed to EC analysis which stated energy imports cost €545 billion (US$747 billion) in 2012 and claimed renewable energy reduced European fuel import costs by €30 billion in 2010 alone.

The renewable associations said the minimum European renewables target of a 27% share of the continent’s generation by 2030 would reduce gas imports by only 9% whereas a more ambitious 30% target would reduce the amount of gas shipped in by 26%.