Russia has turned off Nord Stream 1. Here’s what it means for the EU. | Euronews

first, nord stream 1 was shut down for maintenance. now russia says it will stop due to western sanctions.

for eu officials, russia stopping its key gas pipeline to europe is proof that the kremlin is using energy supplies as weapons.

It also means that the coming winters are likely to be difficult for governments and vulnerable households to survive financially.

“From my point of view, this crisis will probably last three to four years, even if the war (in Ukraine) ends very soon, and I hope it will,” Paul Deane, a researcher at the University of Ukraine, told Euronews. cork.

Russia supplied 45% of the EU’s total gas imports last year, representing some 155 billion cubic meters (bcm). more than a third of that, 59.2 bcm, transited through nord stream 1.

moscow began cutting supplies to the eu in august 2021, which many in europe said was an attempt by russia to increase the price and promote the opening of nord stream 2.

after russia started its war in ukraine, supplies to the eu were further reduced with vladimir putin demanding that european companies pay in rubles. deliveries to 12 member states were partially or completely stopped in what has been seen as retaliation for the sanctions.

brussels quickly announced a series of measures to mitigate the shortfall, ranging from new contracts with alternative suppliers to gas storage requirements for member states and plans to reduce gas use.

us and norway increase deliveries

but given the scale of the bloc’s dependence on russian gas, the complete shutdown of the north stream now means “europe is entering high-level gas insecurity,” irina kustova, a researcher at the European policy (ceps), he told euronews.

Russia still ships via other smaller pipelines, but with reduced capacity and “considering the current situation, a near total supply disruption can be expected for the next several months,” he added.

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This means that “further production reductions can be expected”, which should hit energy-intensive industries the hardest.

Commission head Ursula von der Leyen announced on Wednesday that Russia’s share of EU gas imports has now fallen to just 9%.

Other countries have stepped in to supply Europe with gas. This includes the United States, Norway, Algeria, and Azerbaijan.

in fact, the united states has so far delivered more than 40 bcm of liquefied natural gas (lng), compared to the 22 bcm it supplied to the eu last year and now norway is delivering more gas than russia

This is good news, of course, but it comes at a price.

“Until now, commercial players have continued to stock up on LNG, also offering a premium to the Asian market in the first half of 2022,” Kustova noted. “Again, the question is not so much about the possibility of obtaining gas, but at what price, which remains high due to the shortage of global supply.”

climate uncertainty

Meanwhile, member states have been ordered to fill their gas storage facilities to at least 80% capacity by early November to give them the best chance of weathering the months of winter.

As of Wednesday, common storage was filled to 82% capacity, von der Leyen said. Ten of the 18 member states that have gas storage capacity have already reached the target.

despite new supply and storage contracts, the eu is not out of the woods this winter.

“storage is important, but it’s not a game changer, it’s not a get out of jail card. it’s useful, but it’s not helping us solve the crisis,” deane said.

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the problem is that if the eu ends the winter with depleted storage, it will be on the defensive for the next heating season and the bloc will again struggle to fill storage before winter 2023, from potentially much lower levels — and be in exactly the same situation.

currently, deane continued, “if you look at the numbers and do very simple calculations on the back of the envelope, we’re not going to make it through the winter.”

And that’s without even taking into account two very unpredictable factors: war and weather, he added.

A mild winter could give the EU a respite in terms of energy, but a cold one would wreak havoc on household finances and business production capacity.

then, of course, supplies from alternative suppliers must remain reliable during the cold season.

the final pillar of the eu strategy is an energy saving plan. the commission has called on member states to voluntarily reduce their gas consumption by 15% over the coming months and everyone, from citizens to businesses, is urged to think about their own consumption and the ways to reduce it.

this, said deane, could really help a lot and “would be really crucial to take us further” in the next three or four months, but there is a big caveat.

Healthy storage, reliable LNG supplies, and reductions in energy consumption need to work together “so we can get through the winter safely,” but it would only take “one or two things to go wrong to amplify and magnify the crisis,” he warned. .

nuclear and coal

For Europe to come out of this energy crisis, it needs to diversify not only suppliers but also energy sources. The former, as the commission showed, can be done fairly quickly, though not necessarily cheaply, but the latter is not always as simple as flipping a switch.

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Some member states, for example, have announced that they will expand reliance on coal-fired plants or nuclear reactors to overcome the coming months.

however, “the share of gas in power generation continued to increase” in recent months, kustova said, “because low hydroelectric production and wind generation during the summer put a lot of pressure, as well as energy nuclear reactor maintenance (for example) in france.”

A severe drought, believed to be the worst Europe has experienced in 500 years, led to a drop in hydroelectric power generation, while repeated intense heat waves forced the shutdown of nuclear reactors over concerns. environmental.

Relying on coal is also not a long-term plan, as the bloc aims to phase it out completely to reach its carbon neutrality target by 2050.

focus on renewable energy

Renewables are now being touted not only as a means of becoming carbon neutral, but also energy independent and von der Leyen said on Wednesday that the bloc will “deploy renewables this year that are equivalent to around 8 bcm “.

but completely replacing gas with renewables will take more than a few months.

“a lot of the talk we’re hearing right now is about renewable energy, hydrogen, energy efficiency and air source heat pumps, but that’s the future. the problem is not the future, the problem is the present” Deane said. .

calculated that “realistically speaking, it will take 5 to 10 years” to ramp up renewables and hydrogen to a level high enough to make a significant dent in the continent’s gas consumption and that it will “probably take a from a decade to two to completely move away from natural gas and fossil fuels in Europe.”

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