European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the 27-nation European Union needs to make contingency plans to prepare for a complete cut-off of Russian gas in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
The EU has already imposed sanctions on Russia, including on some energy supplies, and is moving away from deliveries controlled by the Kremlin. But the head of the EU executive branch said the bloc must be prepared for disturbances coming from Moscow.
“We must also prepare now for further gas supply disruption and even a complete cut off of Russian gas supply,” von der Leyen told the EU legislature in Strasbourg, France.
He said a dozen members have already been affected by reductions or outright cuts in gas supplies as the political standoff with Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine intensifies.
“It is obvious: Putin continues to use energy as a weapon. That is why the Commission is working on a European emergency plan”, he said. “We need to make sure that in the event of a total outage, gas flows to where it is needed most. We have to anticipate European solidarity.”
European Union countries already agreed last month that all natural gas storage in the 27-nation bloc must be completed to at least 80% of capacity by next winter to avoid shortages during the cold season. The new regulation also says that the EU’s in-ground underground gas storage will have to be filled to 90% capacity before the winter of 2023-24.
The war in Ukraine has prompted the 27-nation bloc to rethink its energy policies and sever ties with Russian fossil fuels. Member countries have agreed to ban 90% of Russian oil by the end of the year, in addition to a ban on Russian coal imports due to start in August.
The EU has not included gas, a fuel used to power factories and generate electricity, in its own sanctions for fear of severely damaging the European economy. Before the war in Ukraine, it depended on Russia for 25% of its oil and 40% of its natural gas.
To reduce its use of Russian energy, the European Commission has been diversifying suppliers.
“And our efforts are already making a big difference,” von der Leyen said. “Since March, global LNG exports to Europe have increased 75% compared to 2021. US LNG exports to Europe have nearly tripled.”
Meanwhile, the average monthly import of Russian pipeline gas is declining by 33% compared to last year, von der Leyen said, calling for a quick transition to renewable energy sources.
“Some say that in the new security environment after Russia’s aggression, we have to slow down the ecological transition. This transition would come at “the cost of basic security,” they say. The opposite is true. If we all do nothing but compete for limited fossil fuels, prices will explode further and fill Putin’s war chest,” he said. “Renewable energies are homegrown. They give us independence from Russian fossil fuels. They are more profitable. And they are cleaner.
The EU Council agreed last month to increase the share of renewables in the bloc’s energy mix to at least 40% by 2030, up from a previous target of 32%. In addition, a 9% energy consumption reduction target by 2030 will be binding on all EU member states for the first time.
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