Europe Is in for 5 to 10 ‘Difficult’ Winters: Belgian PM

  • Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the next five to 10 winters could be “difficult.”
  • Europe faces an energy crunch as Russia has been slowing natural-gas flows via a key pipeline.
  • European household energy bills have surged and could rise further.

Europe could be in for a stretch of long, hard winters as energy prices surge to record highs amid the war in Ukraine.

“The next 5 to 10 winters are going to be difficult,” said Belgian Prime Minster Alexander De Croo at an event in Belgium on Monday, as reported by broadcaster VRT. “In a number of sectors, it is really difficult to deal with those high energy prices. We are monitoring this closely, but we must be transparent: the coming months will be difficult, the coming winters will be difficult.”

De Croo’s comments come as Europe faces an energy crunch exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. The continent depends on Russia for its natural gas needs, importing about 40% of its fuel from the country. But Russia has slowed gas flows via the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20% of its capacity, citing technical issues. European officials say the move is retaliation against sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Belgium imports just 6.5% of its natural gas needs from Russia, according to The Brussels Times, citing official data. However, energy bills are still going up in Belgium as prices have soared on the global markets. On Monday, benchmark Dutch natural gas futures jumped almost 20% in one day to a fresh record high on news of an unscheduled three-day shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from August 31.

Surging energy prices pushed the cost of electricity in Belgium on the wholesale market to a fresh record high on Sunday, per The Brussels Times. This in turn translates to record high energy bills for households.

Other countries in Europe are also expecting energy bills to continue rising. In the UK, household energy bills in early 2023 are expected to be four times higher than they were between 2018 and 2021, per the Financial Times. In Germany, energy bills are likely to double for households as companies pass on rising natural-gas costs, the AFP reported in early August, citing an electricity provider.

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