E.U. Chief Warns of Danger of Complete Cut-off of Russian Gas

BRUSSELS — European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the 27-nation European Union needs to make emergency plans to prepare for a complete cut-off of Russian gas in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Already, the EU placed sanctions against Russia on energy supply and now is preparing to stop Kremlin-controlled deliveries. But the head of the EU’s executive branch said the bloc needed to be ready for shock disruptions coming from Moscow.

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“We also need to prepare now for further disruption of gas supply and even a complete cut-off of Russian gas supply,” von der Leyen told the EU legislature in Strasbourg, France.

As the conflict with Moscow continues over Ukraine’s invasion, she said that a dozen of her family members were already affected by cuts or complete reductions in their gas supply.

“It is obvious: Putin continues to use energy as a weapon. This is why the Commission is working on a European emergency plan,” she said. “We need to make sure that in case of full disruption, the gas flows towards where it is most needed. We have to provide for European solidarity.”

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The 27 member countries of the European Union agreed to last month that their natural gas reserves should be maintained at least 80 percent for the winter. This would prevent the possibility of shortages during cold season. Also, the new regulation stipulates that underground gas storage within EU soil must be filled up to 90% by 2023-24 winter.

This 27-nation group has had to reconsider its energy policy and cut all ties with Russian oil. The member countries agreed to prohibit 90% of Russian oil and to also ban imports from Russian coal beginning in August.

The EU has not included gas — a fuel used to power factories and generate electricity — in its own sanctions for fear of seriously harming the European economy. The EU relied upon Russia for 25% and 40% respectively of its oil before the war in Ukraine.

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The European Commission diversifies suppliers to reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

“And our efforts are already making a big difference,” von der Leyen said. “Since March, global LNG exports to Europe have risen by 75% compared to 2021. LNG exports from the U.S. to Europe have nearly tripled.”

Von der Leyen stated that the average monthly Russian gas import is falling by 33% in comparison to last year. She also called for an immediate transition towards renewable energy.

“Some say, in the new security environment after Russia’s aggression, we have to slow down the green transition. This transition would come at the ‘the cost of basic security’, they say. But the reverse is true. If we all do nothing but compete about limited fossil fuels, the prices will further explode and fill Putin’s war chest,” she said. “Renewables are home-grown. These renewables give us freedom from Russian fossil fuels. They’re more economical. And they are cleaner.”

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The EU Council agreed last month to raise the share of renewables in the bloc’s energy mix to at least 40% by 2030 — up from the previous target of 32%. For the first time, all EU member countries will have to agree on a target of reducing their energy consumption by 9% in 2030.

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