– This is the script for CNBC’s financial report for China’s CCTV on October 24, 2022.
How to survive this coming winter is the main concern of millions of Eastern Europeans right now. Since the Russian-Ukrainian conflict earlier this year, wholesale electricity prices in some Eastern European countries have skyrocketed.
Although electricity prices in September fell slightly compared to August, they are still at high levels. In Hungary, wholesale electricity prices are €390.42/MWh, or around 2,789 RMB, and in Slovakia and Bulgaria: €386.52/MWh; and €375.13 per MWh, respectively.
Some analyzes suggest that fuel poverty rates will increase significantly in many Eastern European countries, such as Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria. The concept of energy poverty refers to people who do not have enough energy to make a difference in their lives, such as not being able to heat their home in winter or cool their home in summer. Economists fear that if energy and food prices continue to rise, many people will fall into poverty and those already below the poverty line will fall into extreme poverty.
Due to high energy prices, many Eastern European governments are focusing on heating issues rather than environmental issues such as climate change.
In Hungary, for example, logging rules have been relaxed and an increase in lignite mining has been ordered. Lignite is the most polluting fossil fuel due to its high sulfur content. And now lignite is not only a fuel for Hungarian power plants, but is also used by many households for heating.
In Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, people are hoarding firewood and the price of firewood has gone from 100 leva per cubic meter to 180 leva currently.
In Romania, where more than half of the population uses firewood for heating, the government not only issues vouchers to subsidize the purchase of firewood, but also limits the price of firewood to help households ordinary people to reduce their energy expenditure. The non-profit WWF has warned this will increase illegal logging.
In Poland, where some 2 million households are affected by a coal shortage, Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland’s deputy prime minister, has told people to burn “everything except tires” for warmth.
All of these actions will lead to more air pollution, which will affect people’s health.
Solid fuels like firewood emit many harmful pollutants, such as fine particles that affect lung development and aggravate asthma and heart disease.
A mayor in Slovakia said his city was “going back 50 years” in terms of heating methods and pollution, and suddenly people didn’t care about smog and haze anymore. There is now a difficult choice to be made in Eastern European countries between home heating and air pollution.