What does RepowerEU, the European Commission’s exit strategy for Russian hydrocarbons, offer?

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, insisted on 8 March that “we must guarantee our independence from Russian oil, coal and gas”. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a few days ago, destabilized the EU’s energy priorities by making it no longer just looking for the most affordable and sustainable, but also for the “safer”. “

This requires, in the current context, a move away from Russian hydrocarbons. The challenge is enormous, on gas in particular. Russia provided about 45% of the total consumption of this hydrocarbon in the European Union last year, and 40% on average in recent years.

Create new gas routes

Can we cut that share by two-thirds by the end of the year? And reduce it to zero by 2027? These are the European Commission’s goals in “RepowerEu”, the battle plan it is putting forward this Wednesday to get rid of Russian dependency. And at the same time accelerating the European energy transition?

RepowerUE states that Russian hydrocarbons must be exited, but not just hydrocarbons, recalls Neil Makarov, head of European policy at the Climate Action Network (RAC). This is the first column. It aims to improve the management of gas reserves within the twenty-seven Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The Commission should therefore propose a legislative proposal that would make it mandatory in the European Union to fill underground gas reservoirs to at least 90% of their capacity by October 1 each year. In parallel, RepowerEU plans to diversify supplies by creating new gas routes, while carefully bypassing Russia. “This will include constructing new pipelines or enhancing the capabilities of existing ones, as was mentioned in recent weeks for the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) connecting the European Union with gas from Azerbaijan,” continues Neil Makarov.

Fear of being locked up in fossils?

The other path is the construction of new gas stations along our coasts, allowing access to liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is transported by boat with the advantage that it can be brought in from further afield. From the United States, Qatar, West Africa and Egypt… “Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Germany has relaunched two gas station projects,” explains Thomas Pelerin Carlin, director of the Energy Center at the Jacques Delors Institute. Other projects are mentioned. Including in France, in the port of Le Havre, where public authorities have asked Total Energies to consider a new floating LNG import terminal, it is reported reverberation end of March. “The challenge is to avoid over-investing in useless infrastructure,” continues Thomas Bellerin Carlin. With RepowerEU, the EU can ensure, where possible, that a new plant can benefit many neighboring countries. »

Neil Makarov, referring to the calculation by Global Energy Watch, points out, a nongovernmental organization that lists fossil energy projects around the world. These numbers don’t go in the right direction according to the RAC’s Head of European Policy as is Jean-Baptiste Lebrun, Cler-Réseau’s director of the energy transition. The first refers to the heavy carbon footprint of gas imported via these new routes (particularly US shale gas). The second evokes “the closure effect: these new infrastructures, planned to last for decades, trap the EU in fossil fuels.”

Raising “Fit for 55” ambitions

But RepowerEU cannot be reduced to a single concern with diversifying gas supplies. “For the simple and good reason that these new sources will not be enough to fill the Russian gas that the European Union imported before,” the slip of Neil Makarov and Thomas Pelerin Karelin. Therefore, we will have to play on other levers. The European Commission is targeting two in particular: to further accelerate the deployment of renewable energies and to increase efforts to save energy. The economist identifies either “the other two pillars of RepowerEU”.

The RepowerEU is then linked to “Fit for 55”. This major regulatory package, presented by the Commission in July and which the European Parliament and the European Council will vote on in the coming weeks, should enable the EU to achieve its new climate target. This represents a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. Among the 14 “Fit for 55” proposals, there are already proposals to accelerate the deployment of renewable energies and improve energy efficiency. With RepowerEU, Brussels should display increased ambition in these two aspects. Thomas Pelerin Karlin explains: “The Commission should increase the target share of renewable energies in the European energy mix to 45% in 2030, compared to 40% currently. In terms of energy efficiency, we will move from the target of reducing energy consumption from 9 to 13%.”

Renewable energy and energy efficiency, the terms of our freedom?

Admittedly, these new targets have only been proposed by Brussels, and Parliament and the Council are free to incorporate them or not into their discussions of ‘appropriate for 55’. During a press conference last week, Pascal Canvin, a member of the European Parliament in the Renewable Europe Group, said he was confident that ambition would rally a majority in Parliament. And by the heads of the twenty-seven countries? hard to say. “As in the first weeks of the conflict, their strategies were primarily focused on finding new sources of hydrocarbon supply, as there is now a rebalancing with the pillars of energy efficiency and renewable energies,” notes Thomas Bellerin Karlin.

The economist explains this by recognizing that “gas prices will rise permanently” and that “changing sources of hydrocarbon supply does not help our sovereignty over energy.” “It just makes us depend on other countries, there is no guarantee that they will not be hostile to us one day,” he adds. However, if the head of state could cut off the gas so easily, he would not have any control over the solar radiation in Europe or our wind deposits…”

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