“No one else has any illusions. Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon shows that Europe must prepare quickly to face significant uncertainty over Russian gas supplies next winter.”Fatih Birol, chief executive of the International Energy Agency (IEA), warned on Thursday.
To do this, the IEA, which in its role, since it was created specifically to advise the OECD countries on energy policy, proposes a set of 10 measures to reduce dependence on Russian gas in order to completely do without it in a more or less long time. The task is a serious one, given the volumes involved: in 2021, according to the IEA, the European Union (EU) imported 140 billion m3 of gas from Russia via pipeline and 15 billion m3 in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). These 155 bcm account for 45% of all EU gas imports and almost 40% of its total consumption.
Use of nuclear energy
To reduce this volume,The AEI recommends that 10 measures be taken before next winter:
- stop signing new contracts for the supply of Russian gas
- look for alternative suppliers, in particular the US, Algeria, Qatar, Azerbaijan for an estimated volume of 30 billion m3, which involves investments in port infrastructure for LNG.
- establish for each country a minimum level of strategic gas reserves (as in the case of oil)
- accelerate the development of wind and solar energy capacities (saving 6 million m3 of gas)
- increase in the production of electricity from nuclear energy and biomass (saving 13 million m3)
- higher taxation of the exceptional gains generated by the surge in gas prices to reduce the bills of the most vulnerable households.
- accelerate the replacement of heat pumps with gas-fired boilers (saving 2 billion m3)
- increase the energy efficiency of buildings (saving 2 billion m3)
- encourage consumers to lower the thermostat temperature by 1 degree (saving 10 billion m3)
- decarbonize electricity grids by diversifying sources.
Thus, potentially 63 billion m3 of natural gas, or about 40%, can be deducted from gas imports from Russia. In other words, next winter Europe will still depend on Russian gas for 92 bcm, other things being equal.
More modestly, the IEA aims to reduce 50 bcm, i.e. a third of Russian imports, but this figure could reach 80 billion m3 if the EU agrees to slow down the reduction of CO2 emissions by turning to coal instead of gas for electricity generation. The plan also includes the need to restore gas supplies, which are at their lowest point due to Gazprom’s decision to cut supplies this winter, even though Europe has been through an energy crisis and weathered a gas price spike. In the TTF market in the Netherlands, the price of gas peaked in recent days at 199 euros per MWh. For the year, prices jumped by … 930%.
Opportunity to decarbonize operations in Europe
Thus, if we are talking about reducing European imports of Russian gas, then the IEA proposals, as Fatih Birol pointed out, are not only part of the sanctions against Moscow, but also an opportunity to accelerate the energy transition enshrined in the Green Policy. A deal for Europe”, which is to be financed by a third of the €1.800 billion investment in the NextGenerationEU recovery plan and the EU’s seven-year budget. Here is what Barbara Pompili, Minister for Ecological Transition, assured during this presentation: “More than ever it is important to get rid of Russian fossil fuels and fossil fuels in general. At stake is both the need to strengthen the fight against climate change and, as we now see, the short-term energy security of the European continent. The 10-point plan proposed by the IEA today will enrich our thinking.”
It remains to be seen how each European country will implement these measures.