EU to commit to phasing out dependency on Russian energy

The European Union is seeking to fully phase out its dependency on Russian energy “well before 2030” to ensure the 27-nation bloc no longer faces difficult decisions about hurting their own economies in geopolitical crises like the invasion of Ukraine

The European Union is seeking to fully phase out its dependency on Russian energy “well before 2030” to ensure the 27-nation bloc no longer faces difficult decisions about hurting their own economies in geopolitical crises like the invasion of Ukraine.

The EU leaders meet in Versailles outside Paris for a two-day summit starting Thursday and will be working on ways to reduce their dependency on Moscow for fossil fuels.

“We agreed to phase out our dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal imports,” said a draft of the summit declaration seen by The Associated Press.

At the same time, the European Commission already has proposals to make it happen. The EU’s executive arm said its measures “can reduce EU demand for Russian gas by two-thirds before the end of the year” as a first step.

“We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas,” commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.”

The EU imports 90% of the natural gas used to generate electricity, heat homes and supply industry, with Russia supplying almost 40% of EU gas and a quarter of its oil.

For well over a decade, the EU has felt increasingly stuck when it came to addressing its deteriorating relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the prospect of leaving tens of millions shivering in the winter cold because of a dearth of fossil fuels or sky-high prices limited the political options.

The invasion of Ukraine was a gamechanger, and within two weeks, the EU has rallied to prepare a more robust energy policy. But it still hasn't signed on to sanctioning Russian energy, even with U.S. President Joe Biden expected to announce a ban on Russian oil imports.

Already committed to the rapid development of renewables because of climate change, they will accelerate the process now to buttress their political independence, too.

The EU needed to “dash into renewable energy at lightning speed,” said Frans Timmermans, commission executive vice president in charge of its effort to reduce climate emissions.

Energy prices have been high for months because of low supplies, driving up the cost of everything from utility bills to groceries as businesses pass along their costs to customers.

The price of natural gas is 10 times what it was at the start of 2021. It continues to flow through the major pipelines from Russia to Europe, including those through Ukraine, pipeline companies say.

Execution of much of the plan rests with national governments who all have different energy mixes and levels of vulnerability to a gas embargo or cutoff. Germany, Italy and several eastern European EU members are most dependent.

Europe’s pipeline system is not set up so that shipments of liquefied gas can easily reach all corners of the continent. While liquefied gas shipments have increased, energy analysts say that a total cutoff of Russian gas could only be overcome by forced reduction in gas use, first by industrial users.

The commission also said it would seek legislation at the EU level to require that underground gas reserves be filled to at least 90% by the start of the winter heating season. Failure to do that this year led to extremely high gas prices.

The EU Commission said Europe could diversify gas supply by purchasing more liquefied natural gas brought by ship instead of through pipelines from Russia and by getting more pipeline imports from non-Russian suppliers. Those could include Norway and Azerbaijan.

Larger volumes of biomethane from organic sources such as agricultural waste and production of hydrogen for fuel cells would contribute, too.

The commission said it also was looking at more measures to help consumers, such as temporary limits to electricity prices.

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