four ways to reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russia

“We need to reduce all our dependencies as soon as possible.” As the European summit in Versailles begins (Yvelines), Russia’s energy independence is one of the crucial topics on the agenda, recalls Clemens Beaune, State Secretary for European Affairs, guest at France Inter Thursday 10 March.

Under a plan proposed by the European Commission called “REPowerEU”, the EU27 could cut their imports of Russian gas by two-thirds “from this year” and “to stop consuming it at all by 2030”detailed Clement Beaune.

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The European Union imports 40% of its gas from Russia. Gold, “By buying Russian gas, we are financing Vladimir Putin’s war” in Ukraine, said the secretary of state. A ruthless war since the Russian invasion on February 24† But the EU’s energy dependency is not limited to gas, as 27% of its oil imports and 46% of coal imports come from Russia, name it Commission

Diversify its suppliers and energy sources, save, save: franceinfo details four roads to be discussed at the Versailles summit on Thursday 10 and Friday 11 March.

1More cooperation with other gas exporting countries

First difficulty: EU countries have very different levels of dependence. Several Central and Eastern European countries, such as Austria or Romania, sometimes depend on: “100% of the gas comes from Russia”Clément Beaune recalled on France Inter. Germany “is more dependent” that France, “one of the countries with one of the most diversified portfolios in Europe”explains to franceinfo Sophie Méritet, energy economist, lecturer at Paris Dauphine-PSL University.

To diversify its supplies, the EU could ask its other suppliers to sell more gas. According to the Commission, the main partners for the time being are Norway (23% of imported gas), Algeria (12%), the United States (6%) and Qatar (5%).

Maize it is not enough to want to diversify the gas supply. “There must still be gas to sell, emphasizes Sophie Meritet. Norway, for example, is at maximum production capacity. Algeria must first respond to its internal demand.”

2Diversify types of energy

EU countries can also blend more energy with more liquefied natural gas, especially from shale gas, and increase the share of renewable energy sources, such as biomethane, by using sustainable biomass sources such as waste and agricultural residues, or wind energy.

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“That would be pretty good news” for the energy transition, says economist Sophie Méritet. But at what cost? For example for the liquefied natural gasFrance might ask “more in the United States and Qatar, but that’s the problem with the infrastructure. They are now at their maximum capacity, so investment would be needed.”

However, energy weighs on the budgets of European countries. “This fall, Russia had already limited its deliveries to its contractual obligations, so prices were high, with demand exceeding supply,” the economist remembers. The war in Ukraine has only exacerbated this tension. The Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire, even estimated that the current situation was comparable to that of the first oil shock, in 1973.

3Increase the gas supply for next winter

The gas demand for the winter 2021-2022 is covered, reassured European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson on Tuesday 8 March. “But we urgently need to replenish our reserves for next year”she warned.

That is why the Commission wants the gas storage infrastructure in the EU to be at least 90% full by 1 October each year. At the beginning of March they are at 30%† A bill will be offered in April.

Storage is always done in summer, in anticipation of winter, Sophie Méritet recalls. “Because there is less demand in the summer, it is cheaper, just like food. Then we stock up in the winter.” How do you explain such a low reserve rate? “The cold winter of 2020 forced Europe to empty its reserves.”

4Improve energy efficiency

Last axis, energy efficiency. It will allow “reducing the use of fossil fuels” [comme le gaz] in our homes, our buildings, our industry and our electrical system”, states the Commission.

“We don’t ask for candlelight”reassures economist Sophie Méritet from the outset. “It’s about having access to the same services, but using less energy. In your house, for example, the temperature is kept at 20°C thanks to double glazing, home automation… without increasing consumption.”

But some pundits and politicians are calling for going beyond efficiency to become more sober by consuming less. For example, by reducing the temperature in gas-fired houses by 1°C (10.5 million in France), Europe would billion cubic meters of gas in one year. This corresponds to almost 10% of Russian imports, France 2 specifies.