The International Energy Agency has offered the EU with 10 steps to cut its reliance on Russian natural gas within a year without abandoning the European Green Deal’s environmental ambitions.
The EU will have to walk a tightrope to do the impossible: get rid of Russian gas while striving toward low-carbon energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) offered ten steps on Thursday to lessen Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.
“In 2021, the European Union purchased 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia, accounting for over 45 percent of EU gas imports and nearly 40 percent of total gas consumption,” the IEA noted in a news statement issued the same day.
Given Russia’s military campaign against Ukraine, the situation is extremely dire right now. “Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon demonstrates that Europe must move fast to prepare for considerable uncertainty in Russian gas supply next winter,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.
According to the European Parliamentary Research Service, “the future of Europe’s gas supply from Russia might become unclear, whether owing to a politically driven suspension of supplies, uncertainty in energy payments under Russia sanctions, or damage to pipelines in Ukraine due to war.”
The threats to Europe’s energy security were not lost on French President Emmanuel Macron, whose nation now holds the rotating EU chair.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, he said that decisions on a “plan for European energy independence” may be made during the informal EU meeting in Versailles on March 10-11.
“We can no longer depend on others, particularly Russian gas, to transport us, heat us, and keep our industry going. That is why, having chosen to promote renewable energies and construct new nuclear reactors in France, I will argue for a European energy independence policy ” said French President Emmanuel Macron in his speech.
According to the IEA, a dozen steps might cut the European Union’s reliance on Russian gas within a year.
These include not entering into new gas contracts with Russia, replacing Russian supplies with gas from alternate sources, instituting minimum gas storage requirements, and expediting the spread of solar and wind energy.
Maximizing electricity generation from bioenergy and nuclear power, implementing short-term “windfall tax” measures to save electricity consumers from high prices, hastening the replacement of gas boilers with heat pumps, and hastening energy efficiency improvements in buildings and industry are also on the agenda.
Incentives for users to temporarily lower the temperature of their radiators by 1°C were also proposed, as were intensified efforts to diversify and decarbonize flexibility sources in the electrical system.
“Taken together, these steps could reduce European Union imports of Russian gas by more than 50 billion cubic metres, or more than a third, within a year,” the IEA estimates.
“Taken together, these moves might lower European Union imports of Russian gas by more than 50 billion cubic meters, or more than a third, within a year,” according to the IEA.
“This already takes into consideration the requirement for increased European gas storage replenishment in 2022,” it says. However, only a succession of actions will allow us to identify alternatives to Russian imports in the near term,” said Phuc-Vinh Nguyen, a researcher at the Jacques Delors Institute Centre for Energy, in reaction to the ten recommended measures.
Some metrics, however, such as gas storage, have more weight than others. “If the present trend continues, the amount of gas storage in Europe in April would be much lower than in past years,” EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said. “We must begin immediately obtaining enough gas inventories for the coming winter,” she continued.
Impact on the gas package
The EU is considering quickening its route to energy independence at a time when Brussels is revisiting its gas legislation and regulation. The European Commission issued a number of legislative recommendations on December 15, 2021, targeted at encouraging the growth of renewable and low-carbon gases at the expense of fossil natural gas.
Given the present situation, the EU’s gas package will “get considerably more attention” and will be more targeted, according to Nguyen. He also anticipates that “the European Parliament will raise its aspirations for renewable gases, particularly green hydrogen.” Furthermore, agreements with nations other than Russia are anticipated to gain traction.
“Investment in LNG terminals will aid in the diversification of our gas suppliers. We have contacted our pipeline partners, beginning with Azerbaijan and Norway, to generate further alternative volumes “Simson, the commissioner, said. Birol also highlighted Western Azerbaijan, Qatar, Algeria, and developing Asian nations as gas and LNG suppliers.
In accordance with the Green Deal
The ten recommendations are consistent with the European Green Deal, particularly in terms of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and lowering the energy industry’s carbon footprint. However, the IEA has highlighted alternative, less ecologically friendly ways to speed the route to energy independence, such as eliminating “gas usage in the power sector via increased use of European coal-fired power plants.” However, for the time being, the EU is not contemplating such an option.
“The Green Deal is the greatest and only sustainable answer,” Simson stated. “It’s about accelerating the development of renewables and energy efficiency,” she continued. “We are more committed than ever to make swift progress in the European discussions on the Fit for 55 legislation packages,” said French Minister for Ecological Change Barbara Pompili.
“It is obvious that we must move quicker and spend billions of dollars to produce decarbonized energy. Every wind turbine and solar panel installed in Europe is a step forward in the struggle to protect the environment and ensure our energy independence “she said.
“Reducing the European Union’s reliance on Russian gas is a strategic priority,” Simson added.
Next week, the European Commission will present an action plan – a first draft of which EURACTIV obtained – to accomplish this autonomy and “accelerate the construction of a clean, secure, and competitive energy system,” she added.
According to her, the IEA suggestions are “a very relevant and useful addition to our work,” and “many of the concepts offered today are in accord with our impending proposal.” The action plan is set to be released on Tuesday.