EU heads of states and government will consider ways to “phase out our dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal imports” at an informal meeting later this week, according to leaked draft summit conclusions seen by EURACTIV.
The draft conclusions for the meeting, which will take place on Thursday and Friday (10-11 March) in Versailles, France, reaffirm Europe’s objective of reaching climate-neutrality by 2050.
But “as the EU works towards achieving that goal, the current situation calls for a thorough reassessment of how we ensure the security of our energy supplies,” the draft says, adding: “In this respect, we agreed to phase out our dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal imports”.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine late last month, policymakers have shifted their attention to breaking away from Russian energy as quickly as possible.
The draft, which is still subject to change before it is adopted, highlights five ways this can be achieved.
- The first is to diversify Europe’s gas supply. That includes liquified natural gas (LNG) imported from places like the United States and Qatar, “and the development of biogas and hydrogen”;
- Another way is to accelerate the development of renewables “and the production of their key components” as well as “streamlining authorisation procedures for energy projects” such as wind farms;
- A third route is to improve interconnections of the European gas and electricity networks, including “fully synchronising our power grids”;
- Fourth, “reinforcing the EU contingency planning for security of supply”;
- And fifth, “improving energy efficiency and the management of energy consumption, and promoting a more circular approach to manufacturing and consumption patterns.”
In addition, the draft summit conclusions say EU countries will continue working towards “ensuring sufficient levels of gas storage and putting in place coordinated refilling operations” before the winter season.
EU leaders also vow to enhance connectivity with the “immediate EU neighbourhood”, without specifying further.
Wind and solar power are currently the cheapest form of electricity that would help the EU meet its climate targets and become more energy independent.
However, long and complex permitting procedures have stalled the deployment of new wind farms and the industry warns that Europe could miss its renewable energy goals because of this.
Alongside this, the draft highlights the need to improve energy efficiency. Projects like building renovation would help lower Europe’s energy consumption and reduce the need to import energy. This is because buildings are highly inefficient and responsible for around 40% of the EU’s energy consumption. Encouraging consumers in Europe to reduce their thermostat by 1°C could save 10 billion cubic metres of gas within a year, according to the International Energy Agency.
The draft also talks about the need to improve the interconnection of the European gas and electricity networks. For instance, countries like Spain which have numerous LNG terminals and ample gas storage capacity would be able to share supplies more easily with other countries. The planned Midi-Catalonia (MidCat) gas pipeline project linking France and Spain could be revived in that context.
The points mentioned in the draft conclusions echo European Commission plans to break away from Russian energy. A draft Commission communication, expected on Tuesday (8 March), highlighted these points as ways to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russia.
Finally, the draft summit conclusions also highlight the need to address the impact of increased energy prices on consumers, particularly vulnerable citizens and small businesses.
EU countries have already put measures in place to protect consumers from rising energy prices, but governments cannot keep up this spending, Spain recently warned the European Commission.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]