Europe could face gas shortages in winter, the EU’s top energy official has said, after talks between Ukraine and Russia over unpaid bills broke down.
It means some parts of the continent could face a re-run of the 2009 energy crisis when supplies were cut off over a similar dispute. Speaking in Vienna, EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger told reporters: “In the next weeks, there will be no problems. We will receive our gas volumes. Ukraine will have to decide whether they pay the gas in advance, which will be very expensive or if they use the amounts of gas they have in their storage. But that’s exactly our problem because we (Europe) need full reserves for the winter.”
The EU executive wants Ukraine to boost its stored gas reserves to as much as 20 billion cubic metres, from around 13.5 bln at present. Heads of state and government will meet in Belgium next Thursday and Friday to consider their next move. One key topic will be how Europe can wean itself off Russian gas and how the EU could help Kiev.
Euronews asked Arno Behrens, the head of energy and a research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, what options are on the table:
“In the short-term, we really need to focus on reverse flows; on integrating the market; on critical infrastructure; we need to focus on demand side management, so reducing demand…especially in times of reduced supplies like a potential crisis that could evolve now also with Ukraine.”
However, Gazprom board members have expressed doubts in the past over whether reserve flows would be legal under contracts agreed with the EU.
About one third of Europe’s gas comes from Russia, of which half is transferred through Ukraine.