As parts of Europe endure sweltering heat, fears are growing of a cold winter ahead after Russia’s Gazprom energy company cut off a key pipeline to Germany this week — ostensibly for routine maintenance. The move has sparked alarm and is intensifying European Union efforts to slash energy consumption and find alternatives.
Officially, Gazprom’s maintenance work on its Nord Stream I pipeline was long expected and unlikely to last very long. But German officials say anything is possible.
Moscow has already curbed gas deliveries to nearly a dozen European Union countries in recent months, as they pass ever-tougher sanctions over its war in Ukraine. The bloc has agreed to end Russian coal imports and phase out Russian oil this year.
Doing so with Russian gas is tougher, however. It accounts for 40 percent of the EU’s overall consumption — and even more when it comes to countries like Austria and Germany.
Here in France, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne says Gazprom’s latest cut should accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The French government also plans to nationalize its EDF energy company — partly over fears of a looming power crisis.
Now the race is on to find solutions. The Paris-based International Energy Agency has released a 10-point plan on how the EU can reduce its reliance on Russian gas — and climate emissions.
“We need a very broad suite of low-emission technologies…,” IEA energy expert Brent Wanner says that suite should include nuclear power and other energy sources.
“Wind and solar are now two of the cheapest options for new electricity, new sources of electricity….ultimately we need to have multiple options in order for countries to choose their own path, within their own circumstances.”
The EU’s executive arm has also outlined 2030 energy savings targets of 13 percent, which a bloc of powerful European Parliament parties wants to make more ambitious.
But that doesn’t solve Europe’s immediate energy headaches, as prices soar and a potential wintertime heating crunch looms. Brussels research group Bruegel says Germany, for one, will have to cut its natural gas consumption by nearly one-third to ensure it will have enough supplies during the cold months…if Gazprom’s “temporary” cutoff becomes permanent.