Amid an energy crisis, what are the Czech Republic’s renewable options?

Spiraling prices for gas and electricity have highlighted the need to diversify the country’s energy supply.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 03.12.2021 14:29 (updated on 03.12.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

Europe has been gripped by an energy crisis in recent months, with the price of natural gas in European markets as much as six times higher than in the same period last year. A shortage of supply, combined with a lack of gas in storage, are in turn affecting electricity prices, with over a fifth of Europe’s electricity supply coming from natural gas.

With many asking how Europe can become more self-sufficient for energy, countries like the Czech Republic may have a greater incentive than ever to boost their supply of renewable energy, protecting themselves against similar fossil fuel supply problems in the future.

The Czech Republic’s failure to make the most of its potential for solar energy production has long come in for criticism. According to a study by the Czech Solar Association, the country’s current forecast for the development of the solar industry by 2030 will see it using less than 10% of its technical capacity.

Czech solar developments are seeing much more noticeable acceleration at the smaller scale, with a significant increase in the number of solar panels being installed on the roofs of buildings. In the first nine months of 2021, a total 6,188 photovoltaic systems were installed in the Czech Republic, around the same number as were implemented in the whole of 2020. The autumn energy crisis led to a huge spike in demand from the public for solar installations: ČEZ signed 85% more solar contracts in October this year than they did in the typically busier month of June.

“The recent surge in energy prices, combined with the collapse of some suppliers, has aroused extreme interest in solving the situation. Contrary to normal trends, demand has tripled in recent weeks,” Jaroslav Šuvarský, CEO of S-Power Energies, told Idnes.cz.

Solar energy is an intriguing solution for people looking to secure their own power supply while making their own small contribution to the global effort to tackle climate change. But such classic “green energy” alternatives have been far less of a priority on an industrial scale in the Czech Republic than that most debated of renewable sources: nuclear energy.

The Czech government recently joined nine other EU members states in calling for nuclear power to be classified as environmentally sustainable by the EU. In the Czech Republic, which already has six nuclear reactors generating around a third of the nation’s electricity, this would make a big difference in meeting the EU’s climate goals for the future.

Indeed, the share of nuclear energy in the Czech Republic is only likely to increase, with a major expansion project planned at the Dukovany nuclear power plant in the Vysočina Region. But energy experts are skeptical about whether increased nuclear power will be sufficient to replace fossil fuels.

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“We need a real energy transformation,” Edvard Sequens, Chairman of the Association for the Preservation of the Environment, told Expats.cz. “According to the middle scenario for the use of renewable energy sources from the Chamber of Renewable Energy Sources, the Czech Republic could switch about 80% of its current coal power energy consumption to renewable sources by 2030.”

Whether or not there's sufficient political appetite to make such a change is another question. But with Europe suffering from an energy shortage and prices rising steeply for Czech consumers, now might be the time to explore a longer-term restructuring of the nation’s energy sector.

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