EC presents proposal ‘to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030’

The European Commission (EC) proposed on March 8 an outline of a plan to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, starting with gas, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EC said.

“This plan also outlines a series of measures to respond to rising energy prices in Europe and to replenish gas stocks for next winter,” the EC said.

It said that Europe had been facing increased energy prices for several months, but now uncertainty on supply was exacerbating the problem.

“REPowerEU will seek to diversify gas supplies, speed up the roll-out of renewable gases and replace gas in heating and power generation. This can reduce EU demand for Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year,” the EC said.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas.

“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,” Von der Leyen said.

“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. I will be discussing the Commission’s ideas with European leaders at Versailles later this week, and then working to swiftly implement them with my team,” she said.

The EC said that its “Energy Prices Toolbox” from last October had helped EU countries to mitigate the impact of high prices on vulnerable consumers and it remained an important framework for national measures.

“Today the Commission is presenting Member States with additional guidance, confirming the possibility to regulate prices in exceptional circumstances, and setting out how member states can redistribute revenue from high energy sector profits and emissions trading to consumers.”

It said that EU State Aid rules also offer EU countries options to provide short-term support to companies affected by high energy prices, and help reduce their exposure to energy price volatility in the medium to long term.

Following a consultation on targeted amendments to the Emission Trading System State aid Guidelines, the EC will also be consulting EU countries on the needs for and scope of a new State aid Temporary Crisis Framework to grant aid to companies affected by the crisis, in particular those facing high energy costs.

The EC intends to present by April a legislative proposal requiring underground gas storage across the EU to be filled up to at least 90 per cent of its capacity by October 1 each year.

The proposal would entail the monitoring and enforcement of filling levels and build in solidarity arrangements between member states.

The EC said that it continuing its investigation into the gas market in response to concerns about potential distortions of competition by operators, notably Gazprom.

“To address the skyrocketing energy prices, the Commission will look into all possible options for emergency measures to limit the contagion effect of gas prices in electricity prices, such as temporary price limits,” the EC said.

“It will also assess options to optimise the electricity market design taking into account the final report of the EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) and other contributions on benefits and drawbacks of alternative pricing mechanisms to keep electricity affordable, without disrupting supply and further investment in the green transition,” it said.

Phasing out EU dependence on fossil fuels from Russia can be done well before 2030, the EC said.

“To do so, the Commission proposes to develop a REPowerEU plan that will increase the resilience of the EU-wide energy system based on two pillars: Diversifying gas supplies, via higher Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and pipeline imports from non-Russian suppliers, and larger volumes of biomethane and renewable hydrogen production and imports; and, reducing faster the use of fossil fuels in our homes, buildings, industry, and power system, by boosting energy efficiency, increasing renewables and electrification, and addressing infrastructure bottlenecks.”

“Full implementation of the Commission’s ‘Fit for 55′ proposals would already reduce our annual fossil gas consumption by 30 per cent, equivalent to 100 billion cubic metres (bcm), by 2030,” the EC said.

“With the measures in the REPowerEU plan, we could gradually remove at least 155 bcm of fossil gas use, which is equivalent to the volume imported from Russia in 2021.”

Nearly two thirds of that reduction could be achieved within a year, ending the EU’s overdependence on a single supplier, the EC said.

“The Commission proposes to work with member states to identify the most suitable projects to meet these objectives, building on the extensive work done already on national Recovery and Resilience Plans,” the Commission said.

(Photo: EC Audiovisual Service/ Etienne Ansotte)

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