The European Union has unveiled plans to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, with a goal of becoming independent of Russian fossil fuels by 2030.
The European Commission, the EU’s legislative arm, said in a press release that its plan would decouple member states from Russian energy, beginning with diversifying gas supplies. The Commission claims its plan will reduce demand for Russian gas by two thirds before the end of this year, and completely phase out continental Europe’s dependence on Russia “well before 2030.”
In the immediate future, the Commission said it intends to propose legislation by April that would require the EU’s underground natural gas storage facilities to be 90% stocked by the 1st of October every year. The proposal would require member countries to build arrangements with each other in order to properly monitor and enforce filling levels. The Commission also said it was continuing its investigation into concerns about potential “distortions of competition” by gas producers, including Russian natural gas producer Gazprom.
In the short term, the Commission said it plans to provide member states with guidance on emergency measures they can individually take. Those measures include the possibility of price controls in “exceptional circumstances,” redistributing energy sector profits and revenue from emissions trading. It is also consulting with member countries on the possibility of a new “State Aid Temporary Crisis Framework,” which would allow states to grant government aid to companies facing high energy costs. The Commission said that the EU’s regulations for State Aid allow members to give short-term government aid to companies affected by high energy costs, and “help reduce their exposure to energy price volatility in the medium to long term.”
In the long-term, the Commission said it would develop a “REPowerEU plan” that would increase the continental power grid by concentrating on two goals: diversifying natural gas supplies, including increased imports of liquified natural gas from non-Russian sources and increased use of biomethane and renewable hydrogen; and reducing fossil fuel use by upping energy efficiency, increasing the use of renewable sources of electricity, and addressing infrastructure bottlenecks. The Commission claimed that implementing the “Fit for 55” proposal, the EU’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, would already cut annual gas consumption by 30%. If the measures in the REPowerEU plan were added, the Commission claimed that it would reduce EU gas consumption by 155 billion cubic meters, which is roughly equivalent to the volume of natural gas imported from Russia in 2021.
“We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us. We need to act now to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, diversify our gas supply for next winter and accelerate the clean energy transition. The quicker we switch to renewables and hydrogen, combined with more energy efficiency, the quicker we will be truly independent and master our energy system.”