EU aims to reduce reliance on Russian gas by almost 80% this year
For the plan to have a chance of succeeding, it will need action from member states, many of whom were already uncomfortable with the investment required for the commission’s energy transition plans and are now struggling to contain the political impact of soaring energy costs.
In the weeks leading up to the war, a gas supply crisis drove energy costs to record highs, putting the issue high on the EU agenda. European governments have already spent tens of billions of euros to protect consumers and industries from the impact of the crisis and prices jumped again on Monday.
The commission considers that the EU already has enough gas to survive the rest of this winter, even in the event of a sudden disruption of Russian supplies. The bloc’s executive arm will recommend that member states start filling storage tanks now so they are ready for next winter.
Read more: European gas rises 79% as market chaos drives prices to record highs
The commission is set to say that accelerating the Green Deal, the bloc’s sweeping strategy to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, will cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels and will protect the economy from price hikes, according to the official, who asked not to be identified because strategy discussions are private. Proposals can still change before being adopted.
As part of the Clean Transition, the EU is currently discussing a set of laws to achieve a tougher 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gases by at least 55% below 1990 levels. Full implementation of the ‘Fit for 55’ rules would reduce EU gas consumption by 23% this decade, equivalent to 82 billion cubic metres.
Tuesday’s plans will add increased LNG imports and pipeline supplies from outside Russia, more renewable gas, energy conservation and a shift to electrification. Together, this will give the EU the ability to effectively replace the 155 bcm of gas it currently imports from Russia, with 112 bcm this year.
Read more: EU leaders consider pledging to phase out dependence on Russian energy
Up to 50 billion m3 per year will come from new LNG sources, 10 billion m3 will come from other suppliers’ pipelines and 20 billion m3 will come from new wind energy capacity, reducing the demand for power plants on gas.
This push may mean more ambitious 2030 targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency. The commission is also expected to prioritize works to connect the pipelines of the Iberian Peninsula with the rest of Europe and the junction of Bulgaria and Greece.
Read more: EU could survive without Russian gas next winter, study says
While the EU has joined the US and UK in imposing sweeping sanctions on the Kremlin, Russia’s energy sector has so far been largely shielded amid concerns about the impact on the economy European. Ministers have talked about following the EU in banning oil imports from Russia, but there is no clear consensus and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Russian supplies remain ‘essential’ for now .
Phasing out Russian oil and coal could be easier than gas because the EU has a wider range of alternative suppliers to turn to, the official said.
Read more: EU divided over Russian oil sanctions as calls for ban grow
The EU’s executive arm will provide member states with detailed guidance on how to design regulated price measures that would protect retail consumers and smaller businesses. He will also announce plans for a temporary framework, which will provide liquidity support to companies affected by the crisis. To finance these measures, Member States could consider imposing temporary taxes on the windfall profits of energy companies.
To ensure the bloc’s depleted gas reserves are replenished, the commission plans to present a proposal by April to require existing storage facilities on EU territory to be filled to at least 90% of their capacity. here on October 1 of each year. As summer gas benchmark prices are still high, the EU will propose to increase the discount level to 100% as an incentive to refill storage.
The commission will also propose coordination to build up reserves through a joint purchase of gas.
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