Presenting its “REPowerEU” plan on Wednesday, the European Commission said it would attempt to slash consumption of Russian gas across the bloc by 66% by the end of this year — and break its dependence completely before 2027 — by saving energy, finding alternate sources and speeding up the transition to renewables. “We are taking our ambition yet to another level to make sure that we become independent of Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a Wednesday press briefing. It agreed to ban Russian coal starting in August, and by last month had cut Russia’s share of EU natural gas imports to 26% from 40% last year. The new plan goes further, aiming to quickly ramp up imports of liquefied natural gas from the United States and Canada, and increase flows of pipeline gas from Norway.
Europe will encourage citizens and businesses to curtail their energy use — such as by switching off lights and using less air conditioning — and believes these steps could reduce its demand for oil and gas by 5% in the short term. The bloc plans to dramatically cut down the amount of time it takes to get permits for new renewable energy projects. Von der Leyen said that the package would “speedcharge” the bloc’s transition to renewables and include plans to double the bloc’s capacity for solar power by 2025. The Commission has also set a target for the bloc to produce 10 million metric tons of renewable hydrogen and import another 10 million metric tons by 2030 to help decarbonize some industries.
The European Commission said more time was needed for landlocked states that rely heavily on Russian oil delivered via pipelines to find alternate supplies. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is particularly reliant on Russia’s gas, but has managed to cut Russia’s share of its imports from 55% to 35% since the invasion, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said last month. Finnish state-owned gas firm Gasum — which has also refused to pay in rubles, unlike some of Europe’s other energy companies — said on Wednesday that its Russian gas supplies could be cut off this weekend. The Commission said it would work with member states to understand where demand for gas could be cut, and which countries could curtail their consumption for the benefit of others.