The EU could be entirely free of its Russian gas dependence before the end of the decade, according to a master plan released Tuesday.
The European Commission said its strategy rests on two pillars: Diversifying the EU’s gas supply to replace Russian imports in the short term, and scaling up the deployment of renewables and energy-saving measures for the long run.
The plan was delayed by a week as the Commission scrambled to rework what was supposed to be a strategy for dealing with sky-high power prices and turn it into a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia supplies about 40 percent of the bloc’s total gas consumption, but the Commission says that with the measures presented Tuesday, the EU “can reach independence from Russian gas well before the end of the decade” and reduce its demand for imports from Russia by two-thirds this year.
Next month, a “gas storage policy” will set out a requirement to fill up gas storage across the EU by at least 90 percent by October 1 each year, according to the communication — up from 80 percent in a previous draft.
The Commission then proposes a two-pronged plan, dubbed RePowerEU, to reduce the bloc’s reliance on Russian gas.
To diversify supply, Brussels suggests seeking out additional LNG partnerships, increasing the production of biogas, and accelerating the deployment of renewable hydrogen.
To speed up the rollout of renewables, the Commission intends to present a solar expansion strategy in June and a proposal to simplify the planning of renewable energy projects by slashing red tape in May. Brussels also wants to boost the uptake of heat pumps to get the Continent off gas-fired heating systems.
At the same time, the Commission hopes to tackle power prices, saying it would discuss with governments the need for a “temporary crisis framework” to help businesses and consumers most affected.
To finance emergency measures, countries could temporarily tax windfall profits and make use of revenues from the EU’s carbon market.
“We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas. We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
The plan is set to be discussed by EU leaders during their meeting in Versailles later this week.
America Hernandez and Karl Mathiesen contributed reporting.
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