E.U. sees adequate winter energy, but seeks longer-term independence.
Europe’s energy supply is sufficient to get through the winter, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has exposed vulnerabilities that need to be addressed, the European Union’s energy commissioner said Monday.
“We cannot let any third country destabilize our energy markets or influence our energy choices,” the commissioner, Kadri Simson, told reporters after a joint meeting of European Union energy ministers and the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, in Brussels.
She said the Russian invasion “made our vulnerability painfully clear.” Russia provides nearly 40 percent of the European Union’s natural gas and more than 25 percent of its crude oil.
Next week, the commission will present a long-awaited proposal on strengthening energy independence, especially from Russia. But the recent increase of energy prices, along with inflation more generally, complicates that goal.
The strategy is to diversify gas supplies to reduce reliance on Russia in the short term, Ms. Simson said, but ultimately to “boost renewables and energy efficiency as fast as technically possible,” in the spirit of the European Union’s commitment to become carbon-neutral by 2050.
Part of the strategy is increasing the capacity for importing liquefied natural gas. The commission has been reaching out to several gas producers — including the United States, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Nigeria and Egypt — and to Japan and South Korea, to see whether they could redirect some of their imported supplies to Europe. E.U. imports of liquefied natural gas set a record in January.
The commission will also propose a mechanism for voluntary reduction of consumption, Ms. Simson said, but she did not elaborate.
Separately, the bloc stepped up its work on synchronization of Moldova’s and Ukraine’s electricity grids with the European one “as soon as possible” because of the Russian invasion.
“The political will is there — we have to help Ukraine,” said France’s minister for ecological transition, Barbara Pompili. “They are at a risk of a blackout, which would have very heavy consequences.”
Member nations also stand ready to release their strategic oil reserves if needed, Ms. Simson said. All E.U. countries are members of the International Energy Agency, and they are obliged to hold at least 90 days of oil reserves. If supplies are severely disrupted, they can decide to release their stocks to the market.