As parts of Europe experience sweltering heat, fears are growing of a cold winter to come after Russian energy firm Gazprom this week cut off a key pipeline to Germany – reportedly for routine maintenance. This decision has triggered the alarm and intensifies the efforts of the European Union to reduce energy consumption and find alternatives.
Officially, Gazprom’s maintenance work on its Nord Stream I gas pipeline was long overdue and not expected to last very long. But German officials say anything is possible.
Moscow has already limited gas supplies to nearly a dozen European Union countries in recent months as they pass increasingly tough sanctions for its war in Ukraine. The bloc has agreed to end Russian coal imports and phase out Russian oil this year.
Doing it with Russian gas, however, is more difficult. It accounts for 40% of overall EU consumption — and even more when it comes to countries like Austria and Germany.
Here in France, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Gazprom’s latest cut should accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The French government is also considering nationalizing its energy company EDF, partly out of fear of an impending energy crisis.
Now the race is on to find solutions. The Paris-based International Energy Agency has published a 10-point plan on how the EU can reduce its dependence on Russian gas and its climate emissions.
“We need a very wide range of low-emission technologies…,” says IEA energy expert Brent Wanner, which is expected to include nuclear power and other energy sources.
“Wind and solar are now two of the cheapest options for new electricity, new sources of electricity… At the end of the day, we need to have multiple options so that countries can choose their own path, in their own circumstances.”
The EU’s executive arm has also set energy savings targets of 13% for 2030, which a bloc of powerful parties in the European Parliament wants to make more ambitious.
But that doesn’t solve Europe’s immediate energy headaches, as prices soar and a potential winter heating crisis looms. Brussels-based research group Bruegel says Germany, for its part, will need to cut its natural gas consumption by almost a third to ensure it has enough supply during the cold months… if the Gazprom’s “temporary” cut becomes permanent.