Europe: The Alternatives to Russian Gas
So far, the EU has not imposed an embargo on Russian gas, and Russia still keeps delivering, but there is no way of knowing how much longer its gas taps will remain open. Indeed, concerned about possible gas supply disruptions, countries such as Germany and Austria have already triggered emergency plans.
Amid the uncertainty, it's clear that Europe must put an end to its dependence on Russian gas. So, what alternatives does it have?
#1 Pipeline gas from other countries
Europe can get more pipeline gas exports from other countries such as Norway (the second largest exporter after Russia), the US and Canada, but also Algeria and Qatar. In 2020, these five countries accounted for about 60% of Europe's total natural gas imports, with Russia supplying the remaining 40%.
#2 Increase supplies of LNG
Europe can increase its supplies of liquified natural gas (LNG), which in 2020 represented about one-fourth of Europe's total gas imports. Qatar, Australia and the US are currently the top three LNG suppliers Europe relies on, but Nigeria is also an important partner.
The big question, however, is which of the above countries will have any additional production capacity to help avoid a European-wide gas shortage if Russia should announce a cut-off.
This is a major preoccupation for anyone in the energy industry, and we recently hosted a successful webinar with 120 participants where we also considered the above scenarios.
#3 Embrace energy efficiency & renewables
The use of fossil gas must decline in line with the EU's decarbonisation goals – regardless of where the gas comes from. With biogas and hydrogen likely to become niche fuels in cases where electrification is not a viable option, we need to find another source.
Most of Europe’s gas is used for low-temperature heating. The reduction of energy use and the electrification of home heating can decrease the gas consumption in buildings.
At the same time, the growth of renewables can give a push to electrification, and the EU needs to find a way to incentivise this change.
The expansion of renewables has picked up speed in many countries in recent years. And in addition to the climate neutrality argument, another compelling one has now come to the fore: the goal to achieve strategic independence from fossil fuels.
It remains to be seen how and when we will get there, but one thing seems certain: Europe's energy supply can only be secure, affordable and clean if we bolster support for the growth of solar and wind power and the use of green electricity.