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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

EU plans to slash Russian gas imports by two thirds


Graphic of shadow outline of three soldiers set against Ukraine flag on left and Russia flag on right Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

The European Commission (EC) has presented proposals to reduce EU dependence on Russian gas by two thirds before the end of 2022, as part of a plan to become independent of all Russian fossil fuels (including oil) well before 2030.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine the EU has been under mounting pressure to break away from reliance on Russian gas imports. 


The EC plan, called REPowerEU, also outlines a series of measures to respond to rising energy prices in Europe and to replenish gas stocks – filling up to at least 90% for next winter, to cope with potential supply disruptions. 


According to EC President Ursula van de Leyen: ‘We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas. We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us. We need to act now to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, diversify our gas supply for next winter and accelerate the clean energy transition.’


EU Executive President of the European Green Deal Frans Timmerman outlined the plan for the EU to end dependence on Russian gas and to repower Europe at the European Parliament on 8 March 2022. ‘It is time we tackle our vulnerabilities and rapidly become more independent in our energy choices… Putin’s war in the Ukraine demonstrates the urgency of accelerating our clean energy transition.’ He proposed that ‘by the end of the year, we [the EU] can replace 100bn m3 of gas imports from Russia – two thirds of what we import from them. This will end our dependency and give us much needed room to manoeuvre.’ 


The proposals were subsequently discussed by EU heads of state and government meeting in Versailles.


Phasing out dependence on fossil fuels

The REPowerEU plan suggests that phasing out dependence on fossil fuels from Russia can be done well before 2030 by diversifying gas supplies, via higher LNG and pipeline imports from non-Russian suppliers and using larger volumes of biomethane and hydrogen production and imports. While also faster reducing the use of fossil fuels in our homes, buildings and industry, increasing renewables and addressing infrastructure bottlenecks.


The EC is encouraging EU countries to simplify permitting procedures for solar and wind power developments and aims to double the annual deployment of heat pumps to reach 10mn installations by 2030. Trade organisation SolarPower Europe estimates that the EU could reach 1 TWh of solar power capacity by 2030, if the right framework is in place.


EU LNG imports reached 10bn m3 in January 2022, the highest ever. New supply routes could include the Southern Gas Corridor bringing gas from Azerbaijan. The EC also plans to boost biomethane production to 35bn m3 by 2030. 


The value of Russia’s energy exports is of the order of €1bn/d. The EU currently imports 27% of its oil and 46% of coal from Russia. 


Full implementation of the EC’s ‘Fit for 55’ proposals would already reduce annual EU fossil gas consumption by 30%, equivalent to 100bn m3 by 2030. The Commission suggests that measures in the REPowerEU plan could gradually remove at least 155bn m3 of fossil gas use, which is equivalent to the volume imported from Russia in 2021. 


The EC proposes to work with Member States to identify the most suitable projects to meet these objectives. The EU is also looking more favourably at coal. At a meeting of EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, Timmermans admitted that some EU member countries may stick with coal for longer because of concerns about Russian gas. ‘In this extraordinary situation … we are stuck a bit longer with coal, but if that is combined with a much swifter introduction of renewables, for climate that can still be a good solution,’ he said. 


UK plan to phase-out Russian oil imports

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also announced plans for Britain to phase-out imports of Russian oil in response to the Ukraine invasion. He told Parliament the import phase-out will not be immediate but allows ‘more than enough time’ to adjust supply chains, supporting industry and consumers. A new Taskforce for Oil will support companies ‘over the course of the year’ to find alternative supplies. 


Kwarteng has said that the UK must strive to become ‘energy independent’. And that, far from abandoning climate goals, this means speeding up the shift to green energy [with a big push for solar and nuclear power]. There are also controversial calls to embark on new fracking initiatives.


Russian imports account for about 8% of total UK demand, including 18% diesel, 5% jet fuel, 1% gas oil and 8% oil imports. More than two thirds of UK road fuel comes from domestic production. And in terms of fuel products, the majority of imports come from the US, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Saudi Arabia.