Sunday

23rd Apr 2017

Europe looking at alternatives to Russian gas

  • Merkel turns on Russia's Nord Stream gas pipeline: EU countries's dependency on Russia varies from zero to over 90 percent (Photo: nordstream.com)

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday (20-21 March) will look at ways to lower the bloc's dependence on Russian gas, as they prepare economic sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine.

"The European Council is concerned about Europe's high energy dependency rates, especially on gas, and calls for intensifying efforts to reduce them, especially in the most dependent member states," according to the draft summit conclusions seen by EUobserver.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports - including from the US where a shale gas revolution has driven prices down - could be an option, along with improved energy efficiency, better infrastructure, increased gas storage, and a more long-term goal to increase the local production of solar and wind energy.

"The objectives of completing the internal energy market by 2014 and developing interconnections so as to put an end to any isolation of member states from European gas and electricity networks by 2015 remain a priority," the draft conclusions read.

Part of the EU reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is also the halting of a gas pipeline project - South Stream - that would only have increased the dependence on Russian gas in south-eastern EU countries.

"I'm not accelerating our talks regarding pipelines such as South Stream. They will be delayed," EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger, told Die Welt newspaper this week.

Dependency on Russian gas imports varies greatly among member states - Bulgaria is over 90 percent reliant on Russian exports, while neighbouring Romania - which still has its own oil and gas reserves, as well as hydro and nuclear plants - imports only 25 percent of its gas from Russia.

Of the big countries, Germany imports around 35 percent of its gas from Russia, while the UK and France are almost zero-reliant on Russian gas because they import LNG and, in France's case, generate most of their energy via nuclear plants.

Poland meanwhile, which imports about 70 percent of its gas from Russia, as well as Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - the so-called Visegrad Group - have called on the US to lift its legislative hurdles on exporting American shale gas to Europe.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also brought up this topic when receiving German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw on Wednesday.

"We discussed about the technical possibilities of importing gas from America, if this could be done in the future. And we concluded that we are on the same side," Tusk said during a joint press conference with Merkel.

He also repeated the long-standing Polish request for EU countries to consult each other before signing gas deals with Russia, a demand Merkel was less convinced about because "it is private companies, not governments who buy gas."

On US gas imports, British foreign secretary William Hague also noted that EU leaders are starting to explore it as an alternative to Russian gas. "This is now beginning to be discussed between European politicians, including ourselves, and Americans," he said in an interview with BBC television last week.

Britain buys only about one percent of its natural gas from Russia and has five LNG terminals.

According to the association of gas infrastructure companies in the EU (GIE), the bloc has reserves for at least a month, were it to be cut off from Russian gas exports that come mostly through pipelines crossing Ukraine.

"Most of the European transmission systems currently can withstand a disruption of Russian gas through Ukraine. The pipeline network is available for diverting gas flows in case of supply problems from Russia from storage and LNG to market," GIE said in a press release earlier this week.

On 10 March, there were 37 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas in stock in the EU and 2.5 bcm worth of gas in LNG imports, it said. The average monthly consumption of gas in EU countries is around 40 bcm.

Doing business with Russia: A German dilemma

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is determined to impose economic sanctions on Russia over Ukraine if diplomacy fails. German firms doing business in Russia are warning about the consequences.

Eurogroup makes 'progress' on Greek deal

Eurozone ministers endorsed an agreement in principle between the Greek government and its creditors over a new package of reforms. But talks on fiscal targets and debt could still block a final agreement.

New anti-trust complaint looms over Microsoft

At least three security software companies “met several times” with the European Commission to complain about Microsoft’s alleged abuse of its market position. A formal case could follow.

New anti-trust complaint looms over Microsoft

At least three security software companies “met several times” with the European Commission to complain about Microsoft’s alleged abuse of its market position. A formal case could follow.

Investigation

MEPs oppose EU agency to prevent Dieselgate II

The European Parliament said on Tuesday that there should be more EU oversight on how cars are approved, but stopped short of calling for an independent EU agency.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  2. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  3. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  4. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  5. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  6. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  7. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  9. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  10. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  11. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society

Latest News

  1. France holds nail-biting 'anti-system' vote
  2. Le Pen-Putin friendship goes back a long way
  3. Mogherini should tell Russians their rights matter
  4. Le Pens Freunde aus dem Trump Tower
  5. Sexe et mensonges: l'information russe sur l'UE
  6. Report: Post-Brexit payments, ECJ jurisdiction could last years
  7. Oxford study raises alarm on 'junk' news in France
  8. Thousands to march in defence of science