The European Commission announced that the European Union is making significant progress towards its goal of reducing its reliance on Russian fossil fuels within this decade. European nations are entering their second winter with limited Russian gas supplies due to Moscow's cutbacks following the Ukraine invasion, leading to record-high gas prices in Europe.
According to a recent report from Brussels, the EU anticipates a substantial decrease in Russian gas imports to 40-45 billion cubic meters this year, compared to the 155 bcm in 2021, just before the Ukraine conflict. The EU has imposed sanctions on Russian coal and seaborne oil imports. The Commission emphasized that the energy markets still face vulnerabilities, increased fossil fuel subsidies, high inflation, and the need to safeguard critical infrastructure from potential sabotage.
To offset the reduction in Russian gas, EU countries have increased imports from alternative suppliers while also reducing gas consumption. Norway has emerged as the EU's largest pipeline gas supplier, surpassing Russia, and liquefied gas imports, notably from the United States, have surged. Gas storage facilities across the EU are nearly at full capacity, providing a buffer against potential supply shocks during the winter.
A notable expansion of solar energy has contributed to reduced reliance on gas-fueled power plants, particularly during the summer when air conditioning demand peaks. Although a return to the record-high gas prices of the previous year is unlikely, global gas markets remain tight, carrying the risk of price increases in response to cold weather or supply disruptions.
The Commission also highlighted that EU countries are not progressing fast enough in expanding renewable energy to meet their legally binding target of achieving 42.5% of all energy from renewable sources by 2030, nearly double the current share. To accelerate progress, the Commission has unveiled a plan to support Europe's wind energy industry, which is grappling with inflation and heightened competition from Chinese companies.