The 27-nation EU is “on the safe side for this winter” but doing “everything possible to get rid of this dependency,” European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said Saturday at the Munich Security Conference. She accused Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom of “deliberately trying to store and deliver as little as possible while prices and demand are skyrocketing.”
The crisis shows Europe’s vulnerability after years of limited progress in completing an “energy union” — a 2015 vision to allow affordable gas and electricity to flow across borders while diversifying suppliers and reaching climate goals. As renewables like solar and wind are slowly built up and coal and other fossil fuels are phased out, Europe still needs natural gas, and it’s dependent on Russia to get it.
That came into sharp relief as Europe’s gas supply dropped and prices soared partly because Russia sold less gas than normal, squeezing households and businesses with rising costs.
With gas reserves low and concerns a war could interrupt pipeline flows from Russia, the EU is focused on getting liquefied natural gas, or LNG, by ship from the United States, Qatar, Algeria and elsewhere until renewables catch up. Environmentalists fear making that even a short-term priority could set back Europe’s goals to move away from fossil fuels.
Doubling down on renewables would help reduce dependency on Russian gas, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said Monday, but reiterated that energy security was critical. An advisory group to coordinate the EU’s gas supply security was meeting Tuesday because “it’s important that contingency plans are ready for the worst-case scenario,” she said.
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