Europe’s plans to replace Russian gas are deemed ‘wildly optimistic’ — and could hammer its economy
The European Union’s best shot at replacing Russian gas imports this year is likely to miss the mark, analysts predict, exerting further pressure on the region’s economy.
The EU plans to replace two-thirds of Russian gas imports by the end of the year, as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to wage on.
The shift away from the country’s gas supplies became even more urgent after the country’s state-backed Gazprom reduced flows to Europe by 60%, citing a delay to repairs on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that runs to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea.
The European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, will meet with EU energy ministers on Monday to discuss potential coordinated measures, including demand reduction and contingency plans should the situation deteriorates further.
However, the EU’s current plan to replace Russian gas looks to fall short.
In 2021, the EU imported around 155 cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas from Russia. The bloc’s proposed gas replacements by the end of 2022 – which include LNG (liquefied natural gas) diversification, renewables, heating efficiency, pipeline diversification, biomethane, solar rooftops and heat pumps – amount to around 102 bcm annually, according to data from the EU Commission’s REPowerEU, aggregated in a recent report from economic consultancy TS Lombard.
Christopher Granville, managing director for EMEA and global political research at TS Lombard, said in the report that the European Commission’s aims to replace Gazprom’s gas this year look “wildly optimistic.”
“Apart from implementation timings of commissioning German LNG-receiving terminals, Russia is also an important supplier of LNG, underlining the challenge for Europe of sourcing adequate LNG supplies,” Granville said.
The share of Russian gas imports to the EU has already decreased from 45% in April 2021 to 31% in April 2022, with the share of pipeline gas alone falling from 40% last year to 26% this year.
However, total LNG imports have hit record levels, with 12.6 bcm imported in April alone, representing a 36% year-on-year increase despite the reduced share coming from Russia. This would indicate that Europe’s diversification efforts are beginning to bear fruit.
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