EU flags coal switch, accuses Russia of ‘rogue moves’ on gas

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Pipes from the landing facilities of the ‘Nord Stream 1’ gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, Germany March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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  • EU says coal transfer won’t derail climate goals
  • Russia could completely cut gas supply to Europe, IEA warns
  • Russia denies premeditated supply cuts
  • Italy unveils $3.5 billion aid package to meet energy costs
  • Gas flows to Europe are stable on Wednesday

BRUSSELS/OSLO, June 22 (Reuters) – The European Union will temporarily revert to coal to cope with dwindling Russian gas flows without derailing longer-term climate goals, an EU official said on Wednesday as that a tight gas market and soaring prices spark a race for alternative fuels.

European leaders have turned to Russia as flows through its Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline have been reduced to 40% capacity, deepening an energy stalemate after the invasion of Ukraine prompted Europe to impose restrictions. severe sanctions in Moscow.

As well as looking for energy sources, governments have sought to protect citizens from price hikes, with Italy approving a $3.5 billion package to cut energy bills for businesses and households in difficulty.

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To deal with gas shortages, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Europe must replace Russian energy supplies while boosting efficiency and renewable energy, including nuclear power.

In a statement to Reuters, IEA chief Fatih Birol said Russia may continue to find excuses to cut supplies or stop them altogether as winter approaches. Russia has denied that its supply cuts were premeditated. Read more

Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have signaled that coal-fired power plants could fill supply gaps, even as Germany prepares to host a Group of Seven summit after reaffirming its commitment to ambitious climate change goals.

Europe will temporarily seek fossil fuel alternatives to Russian gas in light of President Vladimir Putin’s actions, a senior European Commission official has said.

“Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has led to an emergency situation in the EU,” Elina Bardram, acting director for international affairs and climate finance at the European Commission, told the Africa Forum of the EU. energy in Brussels.

“With the very rogue moves we are seeing from the Putin administration in terms of very sudden drop in Gazprom throughput, we are taking very important steps, but all of these steps are temporary,” she added.

The measures would be removed as soon as possible as the EU is determined to meet its climate targets, she said.

“The EU targets for 2030 and 2050 remain fully intact…although we may temporarily increase our use of coal, the long-term direction is clear,” added Bardram, who led the European Commission’s delegation to the Paris climate talks in 2015.

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Countries have outlined a range of measures to weather a supply crisis to address concerns about winter energy shortages and a spike in inflation that could test Europe’s resolve to maintain sanctions against Russia.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Tuesday there was a risk of a serious economic crisis and stressed the need to find alternatives to overcome three or more years of energy shortages.

A note from the Royal Bank of Canada expects gas tank filling rates to slow and governments to take action to reduce demand.

“Many countries seem to be rethinking coal shutdowns,” he said, adding “we don’t believe the situation can be corrected with supply-side measures alone, and we expect a significant response.” on the demand side.

Another flashpoint in the energy crisis could arise in the Baltic countries. President Gitanas Nauseda has said Lithuania is ready for Russia to shut it down from a common power grid in retaliation for blocking rail shipments of some Russian goods to Moscow’s Kaliningrad enclave.

Neighboring Finland has unveiled plans to build a hydrogen transport network to bolster its energy security after deciding to stop buying Russian gas.

Russian gas flows to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and deliveries through Ukraine were flat on Wednesday, but remained significantly lower than last week. Gazprom said it was reducing flows via Nord Stream 1 last week, citing technical issues.

Europe’s benchmark gas price was trading at around 127 euros ($133) per megawatt-hour (MWh), below this year’s peak of 335 euros but still up more than 300% from its level. one year ago.

Europe is scrambling to fill storage with winter gas – now at 55% – as it fears further supply disruptions from Russia, which has already cut off some customers.

Lindner’s warning came after German industry association BDI said recession in Europe’s biggest economy would be inevitable if Russia cut off gas supplies.

The EU and other developed economies imposed sanctions on Russian oil and coal, but delayed a ban on gas imports.

Bolstering aging nuclear infrastructure could provide respite from high electricity prices and supply shortages, the IEA said.

“In light of renewed interest in the role of nuclear energy in clean energy transitions, the war has underscored the need to explore options for…investments in new facilities as well as the reopening of factories. (uranium) conversion facilities.”

More broadly, the $2.4 trillion expected to be invested in energy this year included record spending on renewables but failed to close a supply gap and tackle climate change, said the IEA.

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Additional reporting by Nina Chestney in London, Anne Kauranen in Helsinki, Giuseppe Fonte in Rome, Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; written by Matthias Williams; edited by Jason Neely, Elaine Hardcastle and Barbara Lewis

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