EU cuts Russian gas reliance in half but nears limits of alternative supplies

Bloc's chief diplomat Josep Borrell says energy savings will be needed

Germany is hurriedly building a liquid gas terminal on its northern coast to replace Russian pipeline imports. Getty
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The European Union has halved its reliance on Russian gas by buying from other suppliers, but cannot go much further without reducing its energy consumption, the bloc's top diplomat has said.

Josep Borrell said deliveries from Russia make up only 20 per cent of Europe's gas imports at present, compared with 40 per cent before the war in Ukraine began.

The bloc has partly offset Russia's gas cuts by buying more liquefied natural gas (LNG), for example from the US, which arrives on ships and now makes up 37 per cent of imports, up from 19 per cent previously.

The American Petroleum Institute said last week that the US sent more gas to Europe in June than Russia delivered by pipeline, a first that it said “would have been unthinkable a few years ago”.

However, not all countries can import LNG directly because they are landlocked or do not have the required facilities, with Germany hurrying to build those on its northern coast.

Pipeline deals with Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan have also helped the EU to diversify its supplies after years of heavy dependency on Russia which left many countries exposed when war broke out.

In a blog post, Mr Borrell said more diversification would follow but said the “hard truth” was that “for this winter, we are approaching the limits of what extra gas we can buy from non-Russian sources.”

“So, the bulk will have to come from energy savings,” he said. “Winter comes every year but the one we face promises to be exceptional.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the share of LNG imports had almost doubled. AFP

EU members last week made a voluntary commitment to cut their gas consumption by 15 per cent during the winter, so that the gas they do receive from Russia will go further.

However, member states carved out a number of exceptions and took the power to declare a gas crisis — which would make the energy cuts mandatory — away from the European Commission.

There is no certainty about how much gas Europe will receive from Russia, which has drastically reduced supplies to Germany through the Nord Stream pipeline.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc “must prepare for the worst” because Russia has partially or completely cut off supplies to several member states already, most recently its neighbour Latvia.

Mr Borrell said he would work on building a global coalition on energy efficiency in the same way that the EU helped to win backing for a pledge on methane at last year's Cop26 summit.

He said European countries leading by example would give the bloc more credibility to push for energy efficiency at the UN General Assembly and at Cop27 this autumn.

“It is still true that the best energy of all is the one you don’t need,” he said.

Updated: August 02, 2022, 10:02 AM