EU needs ‘more urgency’ to replace Russian gas, say liberals – EURACTIV.com
The EU must accelerate the replacement of Russian gas in its energy mix and dramatically increase investment in renewable energy infrastructure, senior liberal politicians said on Friday (3 June).
Speaking at the congress of the European liberal party, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in Dublin, Michael McGrath, Ireland’s Minister for Public Expenditure, warned that “Europe is likely to face biggest energy crisis since the 1970s.
“We all agree that it is immoral to pour hundreds of billions of euros into the Russian regime when we know it is financing the war. We have to deal with it with much more urgency than we were going to. We need as much coordination as possible at European level,” McGrath added.
“The green transition is the future of our European collective economy.”
On May 18, the European Commission unveiled RePowerEU, a €300 billion plan to phase out Russian energy imports by 2027. However, the EU executive acknowledged that the program will require short-term investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure to replace Russian oil imports. and gas.
“Before the war, we paid more than 300 billion euros for oil and gas imports. If we are able to replace them with local renewable energies, it will have an impact on our balance of trade. Offshore wind projects tend to be built by our own companies. This is part of our growth strategy,” EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson told delegates.
“Even before the imposition of sanctions against Russia, member states were looking for alternatives like Norway and Algeria,” the energy commissioner said.
The European Commissioner for Energy also underlined the need to invest and reform the European energy network, which would require 28 billion euros of investment.
“We are dependent on fossil fuels and we need to prepare,” said Commissioner Simson, adding that “we will replace Russian natural gas with alternative suppliers, and we will negotiate on the basis of mandates from Member States”.
However, Swedish MEP Emma Wiesner, a member of the European Parliament’s environment committee, urged the Commission to act faster and criticized the funding allocated to fossil fuels in the RePowerEU programme.
“I am not very satisfied with RePowerEU. It is a self-defeating way of acting when we continue to invest euros in fossil fuel infrastructure,” she said, noting that the program includes investments worth 10 billion euros in fossil fuels. gas infrastructure and 2 billion euros for oil.
Wiesner also criticized the EU’s slowness to end its dependence on Russian gas, despite the Commission identifying it as a priority several years ago. The policies of the past six years have not worked, Wiesner said, pointing out that in 2021 EU gas imports from Russia have increased to 38%.
George Louis Bouchez, the Belgian MR party leader, said alternative gas supplies to Russia were not viable.
“There is no future for fossil fuels. The only solution is a mix of nuclear and renewables,” he said.
“It’s not about whether you like nuclear, the reality is that there is no gas in Europe. We have to make this decision now,” he added, calling for a big increase in infrastructure investment.
“Europe is a political giant that acts like a dwarf,” said Raoul Boucke, Dutch MP for D66. He also urged the European Parliament to adopt the most ambitious targets possible on car emissions when MEPs vote on EU carbon emissions and the overhaul of the emissions trading system next week.
Speakers also underlined the need for greater coordination of energy policy at EU level, both in terms of the overall energy mix and the capacity of the electricity network.
“Only allowing countries to choose their energy mix is part of the problem,” Bouchez said.
“The choices made by Germany have become a problem for all of Europe. This is why Europe must have the same strategy,” he added.
“Joint purchasing of gas is the way to go,” Wiesner said. “I don’t think the European supergrid is controversial at all. We must devote all our investments to a European super-grid. This is a true energy union,” she said.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]