Energy crisis: Europeans ‘must lower thermostats to prepare for Russia cutting off gas supplies’

The heating is turned off and the boilers are adjusted: these are the measures that Europeans must take to prepare for the total cut off of Russian gas supplies, according to a report.

The EU faces “unprecedented risks” of gas shortages this winter after Russia cut most pipeline shipments amid its war in Ukraine, the International Energy Agency said.

The Paris-based group said homeowners should lower thermostats as emergency energy-saving measures to help cut Europe’s gas use by 13% in preparation for a total gas cut.

“The complete shutdown of Russian pipeline gas supply to the European Union before the 2022/23 heating season cannot be excluded, when the European gas market is at its most vulnerable,” the IEA wrote in its report. . quarterly gas report on Monday.

The IEA said the EU must focus on bringing underground gas reserve levels to 90% of capacity in the event of a total Russian supply cut-off. EU storage is currently around 88% full, above its 80% target.

He also warned Europe to make sure gas reserves don’t fall below 33% this winter to have enough power if there is a sudden cold spell.

Home energy-saving measures, including lowering thermostats by 1°C and lowering the temperature of boilers, would help increase gas storage levels in Europe, the IEA said.

These measures should be coordinated with minimizing gas flaring in the EU power sector and reducing gas use in buildings, the group said.

“Our analysis indicates that maintaining adequate storage levels until the end of the heating season, at 33% of its working storage capacity as a minimum, will be crucial for a safe winter,” the IEA wrote.

“Storage levels below this threshold might not be enough to cope with a cold snap coming at the end of the heating season, similar to the one Europe faced in March 2018.”

Russian gas supply cuts

Only a trickle of Russian gas continues to reach pipelines through Ukraine to Slovakia and across the Black Sea through Turkey to Bulgaria. Two other routes have been closed, under the Baltic Sea to Germany and through Belarus and Poland.

European leaders say the Russian gas cut is blackmail aimed at pressuring governments for their support of Ukraine and sanctions against Moscow.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which carries gas from Russia to Europe, was shut down indefinitely before several leaks were found in the Baltic Sea.

The submarine pipeline was damaged in underwater explosions that European governments say is sabotage. Russia has denied any responsibility.

Leaks were also found in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was due to come online this year but never did after Germany refused to certify it.

Moscow has hinted at threats to cut off what remains of its natural gas supplies to Europe.

Last Tuesday, Gazprom, Russia’s state energy company, said it could impose sanctions on the Ukrainian state gas company over a legal dispute, which would likely result in supplies being cut off.

European governments and companies have made up much of the Russian shortfall by buying expensive supplies of liquefied natural gas, which arrives by ship from countries such as the United States and Qatar.

They have also obtained a greater supply of gas pipelines from Norway and Azerbaijan.

On Saturday, Bulgaria opened a natural gas link with Greece that was hailed by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

“This pipeline changes the energy security situation in Europe. This project means freedom,” said von der Leyen.

The European Commission has committed almost 250 million euros to finance the project, it added.

Europe’s energy saving winter

Last week, EU energy ministers approved a package of emergency measures to curb rising electricity bills and coordinate member states’ responses to the energy crisis.

The package, negotiated in less than a month, includes mandatory energy savings, a cap on excess market revenues and a tax to capture excess corporate profits.

The deal came as inflation in the eurozone reached double digits (10%) for the first time in the history of the single currency, mainly driven by skyrocketing energy bills.

All three measures are time-limited and cover:

  • An EU-wide plan to introduce energy saving: A mandatory 5% target during peak hours, when gas plays a larger role in setting prices, and a 10% voluntary reduction in total electricity demand.
  • A cap on excess income produced by power plants that do not use gas to produce electricity, such as solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric and lignite. The cap will be uniform and will be set at €180 per megawatt-hour. All revenues above the barrier will be collected by governments.
  • A solidarity mechanism to partially capture the surplus earnings manufactured by fossil fuel companies (crude oil, gas, coal and refinery). The authorities will be able to impose a 33% levy on the profits made by these companies in fiscal year 2022, but only if the profits represent a 20% increase compared to the average since 2018.

EU leaders have promised to introduce more energy-saving measures to deal with declining gas supplies.

“Today, the EU managed to deliver,” said Jozef Síkela, the Czech Republic’s trade and industry minister, who holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council.

“We completed another part of the puzzle, but definitely not the last one,” Síkela added. “This is an immediate patch.”

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