Gas pipelines: can the EU survive without Russian supplies?
Russian energy company, Gazprom, has given Ukraine two days to pay outstanding debts or face a cut-off in gas supply.
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said: “The supply of gas to Ukraine at the ordered amount will result in a full stop of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine, which creates serious risks to gas transit to Europe.”
Close to 80 per cent of the gas received by European Union countries comes from Russia through Ukraine, so in light of Miller’s statements, what does this mean for gas supplies to the EU?
As the dominant EU supplier, its threat has been taken seriously across the political union and could potentially have perilous consequences for supplies to Britain and other member countries.
With Russia prepared to use its gas source as a pawn in the political game, the EU executive earlier this week announced plans to set up a sole European market for energy supplies – taking into consideration the needs of purchasers and consumers – and thus removing much of Russia’s power in supplying gas to Europe.
Vice-president of the European commission in charge of energy policy, Maroš Šefčovič, revealed plans for a new delivery route bringing supplies to Europe from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq and Iran.
He estimated the pipelines to be operational by 2019 and said “it’s something we have to pay attention to”.
With energy methods, supplies and consumption rates varying widely across Europe, a single gas union would create benefits including reduced costs, increased efficiency, lower carbon dioxide emissions, and reduced threat to supply in terms of political uncertainty.
Union countries would also benefit from a consolidated energy transport method as opposed to the current disparate infrastructure.
Consequently, the EU would be able to cope if president Putin’s ban goes ahead, the length of which is uncertain. Despite the Kremlin’s gas cut-off not anticipated to be a detrimental blow to Europe’s energy supply, it would still serve as a major inconvenience, both practically and financially.
Presently, Russia holds the largest volume of gas globally, with proven resources of 50 trillion square metres. While the EU actively considers the way to escape its reliance on Russia, another consideration must be had for what the Kremlin intends to do with its gas reserves if it stalls exports?
With a heavy dependence on revenues from gas sales, the move would be akin to shooting itself in the foot.
And with the EU seemingly stoic in the face of such a threat, already preparing to implement its own energy measures without giving precedence to the impending outcome of the Ukraine-Russian gas supply debate, it would seem the executive has actively considered Russia’s reliance on gas sales.
The plan has been mounting for some time giving precedence to the desire to create a tighter EU with its own energy union, unaffected by external factors.
With available technological infrastructure, an estimated completion date and source countries confirmed, the EU looks well on its way to securing its own energy monopoly.
The commission’s proposal will be discussed by EU energy ministers in Brussels next week before a formal debate in Luxembourg in early June.