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The EU’s plan to cure its Russian gas addiction

The European Commission has drawn up a 10-point plan to reduce the bloc’s dependence on Russian gas, according to a draft communication obtained by POLITICO. 

The war in Ukraine has added urgency to EU efforts to wean itself off imports from Russia, prompting Brussels to delay its long-awaited communication on tackling sky-high power prices and turn it into a plan for improving the Continent’s energy security. 

The result is a proposal for achieving “a more resilient EU energy system with measures to reduce EU’s consumption of gas and to reduce reliance on a single supplier,” the Commission writes. 

As part of the retooled text, the Commission is mulling setting mandatory gas storage levels for member countries, saying that to prepare for next winter, the EU needs an “average level of storage filling of at least 80% by 30 September.” 

The EU imports the vast majority of the gas it consumes, and Russia last year accounted for around 45 percent of imports, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). 

The draft text, which is due to be presented on March 8 and may still change, also features several measures aimed at scaling up the EU’s renewable energy capacity, dubbed a “New Energy Compact.” 

Brussels wants EU countries to “swiftly map, assess and ensure suitable land and sea availability for renewable projects,” and advocates using revenues from the EU’s carbon market, the Emissions Trading System, to fund new installations. 

In June, the Commission will put forward a recommendation on permitting for renewables — aimed at slashing red tape and speeding up their rollout — as well as a standalone solar strategy. 

Solar on rooftops “could cover almost a quarter of the EU’s electricity consumption,” the draft reads. But it notes that the bloc depended on imports for panels and cells, and that “20-25% of planned EU solar projects [had] to be either postponed or cancelled entirely in 2021” mainly due to surging energy, material and logistical costs. 

The solar strategy will include measures to speed up installations and “help develop a value chain for solar energy and strengthen the EU’s competitiveness and tackle dependencies.” 

Brussels also wants to boost biogas, recommending a bloc-wide production of 35 billion cubic meters by 2030 and asking countries to channel funding from the Common Agricultural Policy toward “biogas production from sustainable biomass sources.”

Alongside new measures, the Commission also says a swift implementation of the Fit for 55 climate legislation package — currently under scrutiny in the Council and the Parliament — will be key. The set of proposals includes plans to make buildings more energy-efficient and a framework for expanding the bloc’s renewable energy capacity. 

“The implementation of the Fit for 55 proposals will already lead to a reduction in the EU’s reliance on gas by 23% by 2030,” according to the draft text. 

The IEA on Thursday released a 10-point plan for slashing the EU’s gas imports from Russia. It recommended minimum gas storage obligations, steps to accelerate the deployment of renewables and bioenergy and more ambitious energy efficiency plans, among other measures.

America Hernandez contributed reporting.

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