Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the EU has sought to reduce its dependence on Russia’s vast energy exports which has helped fund Vladimir Putin’s military in its war against Ukraine. The EU agreed to ban Russian coal starting in August, and by last month had cut Russia’s share of EU natural gas imports to 26% from 40% last year.
But a lot of European countries are dependent on Russian energy, with Hungary and Germany saying plans to wean itself of Russian energy could destabilize their economy greatly.
Now the EU has unveiled a plan aiming to quickly ramp up imports of liquefied natural gas from the United States and Canada, and increase flows of pipeline gas from Norway while also setting up a platform to enable countries to jointly purchase energy, with the aim of helping to bring down rocketing prices.
Presenting its “REPowerEU” plan on Wednesday, May 18, the European Commission said it would attempt to slash consumption of Russian gas across the bloc by 66% by the end of this year — and break its dependence completely before 2027 by saving energy, finding alternate sources and speeding up the transition to renewables.
“We are taking our ambition yet to another level to make sure that we become independent of Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a Wednesday press briefing.
“When Europe acts together, it has more clout,” von der Leyen said of the joint procurement program. “This way we can secure energy imports we need without the competition between our member states.”
The plan also emphasizes energy-saving tactics as the “quickest and cheapest way” to address the crisis. Europe will encourage citizens and businesses to curtail their energy use — such as by switching off lights and using less air conditioning /
Going forward the European Union will lift its target of having at least 40% of its energy coming from renewable sources to 45%. The bloc plans to dramatically cut down the amount of time it takes to get permits for new renewable energy projects.
Much of the €210 billion ($221 billion) in new investments envisaged between now and 2027 would be financed by drawing on the EU coronavirus recovery fund.
The plan would require approval by EU member states — while others are recommendations.
The EU leader also said EU countries are working on an oil embargo for landlocked states that rely heavily on Russian oil delivered via pipelines to find alternate supplies.
Hungary — which got about 40% of its oil imports from Russia last year, according to the International Energy Agency has so far said it wont support such a move agaisnt Russian energy.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is particularly reliant on Russia’s gas, but has managed to cut Russia’s share of its imports from 55% to 35% since the invasion, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said last month.