The International Energy Agency on Thursday proposed a 10-point plan to reduce the EU’s reliance on Russian natural gas as Moscow’s military conflict with Ukraine intensifies.
The new proposals include halting new gas supply contracts with Russia, replacing Russian supplies with gas from alternative sources and accelerating the deployment of renewable energy as well as increasing power generation from bio-energy and nuclear plants, among others.
Introducing minimum gas storage obligations to increase the resilience of the gas system, speeding up the replacement of gas boilers with heat pumps and accelerating energy efficiency improvements in building and industry are also included in the proposal.
The new steps could help reduce the EU’s imports of Russian gas by more than 50 billion cubic metres, or over one-third, within a year, according to the IEA estimates.
“Nobody is under any illusions anymore. Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon shows Europe needs to act quickly to be ready to face considerable uncertainty over Russian gas supplies next winter,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol on Thursday during a press webinar on reducing Russian reliance on natural gas.
The IEA's plan could help Europe reduce its "reliance on Russian gas imports by over a third within a year", he said.
In 2021, the EU imported 155 billion cubic metres of natural gas from Russia, which accounted for around 45 per cent of EU gas imports and close to 40 per cent of its total gas consumption.
“Our numbers show about 15 bcm of the gas contracts with Russia are coming to an end in the next few months and not only they should not be renewed but no new contracts to be signed,” Mr Birol said.
The EU should instead seek alternative sources of supply from the US, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Algeria to replace the Russian gas, he added.
“Today, we have a number of scenarios including the full disruption of energy imports from Russia,” Barbara Pompili, minister for the ecological transition of France, which currently holds the EU Presidency said.
In the short-term, however, “our system is robust and there are no risks for the security of supply of gas and oil. We are also taking further measures to increase the resilience of energy systems such as regulating gas storage, diversifying imports and reducing consumption”.
Russia, one of the top crude producers in the world, is facing severe punitive actions from the US and its allies that are aimed at crippling its economy and banking industry as it continues the military offensive in Ukraine. The West has so far abstained from imposing sanctions on Russia’s energy and commodity industries that are vital to the global economy.
In 2020, Russia produced about 10.2 million bpd of crude oil and natural gas condensate, placing it second after the US, with Saudi Arabia in third place, according to the 2021 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. About 60 per cent of Russia’s oil exports go to Europe and another 20 per cent to China.
“Compared to the previous crises, we have in place a robust scheme of interconnections so that neighbours can help their neighbours and on top of that investments into the LNG terminals will help us to diversify our gas suppliers,” Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, said.
“We have reached out to partners with whom we have pipeline connections starting from Azerbaijan and Norway.”
The proposed measures are "fully consistent with the EU’s European Green Deal" that aims at zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the IEA said.
"What is at stake is both the need to accelerate the fight against climate change, and, as we can see now, the short-term energy security of the European continent," Ms Pompili said.