How can we get away from gas?

40 per cent of the natural gas consumed in the EU comes from Russia. The figure for Germany is as high as 55 per cent. Plans for measures to move away from Russian gas already exist both at European and at German level. Ein overview:

Graphic proividing information about estimated trend of emissions according to 2021 Projection Report© BMWK

The EU plans to reduce its imports of Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of 2022. To this end, it has put together the “REPowerEU” plan, and intends not least to step up the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from countries like Qatar, the United States, Egypt and from West Africa. The gas supply is to be diversified, and the introduction of gas from renewable sources for heating and power generation is to be accelerated. Initial estimates suggest that the European Community could be able to fully phase out Russian gas by 2030 at the latest. This will entail an enormous effort, because more than 40 per cent of the natural gas consumed in the EU comes from Russia.

As early as this summer, says Minister Habeck, Germany may no longer be reliant on Russian coal; in the coming winter, the same is to be true of Putin’s oil. However, in contrast to coal and oil, where Germany can cut its dependence on Russia far more quickly, it is not easy for Germany to take its “foot off Russian gas”. This is because Germany in particular is especially dependent on Russian natural gas: 55 per cent of the natural gas consumed in Germany comes from Russia; imports also originate from countries like Norway and the Netherlands. The fossil fuel is used primarily as a source of heat: roughly half of the German housing stock is heated by gas. In the case of new buildings, in contrast, the figure is below 27 per cent.

Minister Habeck has repeatedly warned against an immediate embargo on Russian energy imports, which could result in supply shortages in the coming winter as well as economic disruption and high inflation. The Minister says that, whilst security of supply is ensured for this winter, Germany has to be in a position to survive such an embargo over the long term. “We must not give Putin’s Russia the satisfaction of our having to take back measures because we can’t cope with the effects of our own choices,” says Habeck.

LNG imports serve as a bridge along the road to green hydrogen

Until Germany is able to manage entirely without Russian gas, imports of LNG (liquefied natural gas) are to safeguard part of the supply in the short and medium term. Germany will need special LNG terminals for this, including the necessary infrastructure connecting them to the grid, and this has yet to be built. It is to be designed in such a way that, going forward, it can be converted to transport “green” hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives.

Germany is building LNG terminals and purchasing LNG for storage

The KfW, Gasunie (a long-distance gas grid operator, a 100 per cent subsidiary of the Dutch state-owned enterprise Gasunie) and the energy utility RWE have signed an agreement to work together to build an LNG terminal in Brunsbüttel, Schleswig-Holstein. Last week, Minister Habeck agreed on a long-term energy partnership with Qatar during a visit to the emirate, and this will also involve deliveries of LNG.

Stocking up on gas, and a Gas Storage Act

Going forward, a new act on the mandatory storage of gas is also to ensure that the gas storage facilities are always adequately stocked. The European Commission has also announced a legislative proposal for April in which the underground gas storage facilities throughout the EU are always to be at least 90 per cent full by 1 October of each year.

In order to ensure the supply of gas, the Federal Government is also using long-term options to obtain additional capacity on the market and to stabilise the stocks.

“All of these are extremely great challenges which we need to tackle in real-life conditions,” said Robert Habeck following a second meeting about Ukraine and sanctions with the business community, and added “We are all working together to achieve them.”