How does Austria want to get out of the Russian trap?

“Reduce our dependence on Russian gas” This is the stated goal of Austria, a country that maintains strong industrial ties with Moscow. On Wednesday, the country presented an emergency plan to quickly reduce the share of gas it consumes from Russia to 70%, compared to 80% at present. “The measures will significantly reduce our dependence on Russian gas.”He reassured reporters the Environment Minister in charge of energy Leonor Gosler.

For the first time, the country will form a strategic reserve with non-Russian gas at the disposal of companies, allowing to cover the country’s total consumption for two winter months. The plan also presented plans to force the backfilling of all so far unused structures. not “more acceptable” That Gazprom’s subsidiary, GSA, does not stock it, Leonor Gosler emphasized. “If Gazprom does nothing”, Other Substitution Providers ‘will be able to access’ to the infrastructure. ‘It’s totally justified’. The reserves earmarked for Gazprom at the Heidach Center near Salzburg, one of the largest in Central Europe, are currently empty. In addition, Haidach and other tanks, so far connected to the German network, will be connected to the Austrian network To ensure that local customers can be supplied If necessary. On Wednesday, Austria announced a storage rate of 26%, with a total capacity of 95.5 TWh/year, above the European average and its annual consumption (89 TWh/year). According to the government, the goal is to achieve “At least 80% before the start of the next heating season”. All measures must be adopted in the coming days by a two-thirds majority in the form of amendments to the current law.

Fear of gas cuts

This declaration constitutes a real strategic shift for this non-NATO country with a population of 9 million. Austria, which built its industrial success on privileged relations with Russia, was the first Western country to sign a gas delivery contract with the Soviet Union in 1968 and cheap imports have continued to increase these recent years despite the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. Austrian premium On it, OMV Group in 2018 renewed the delivery contract with Gazprom until 2040. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 forced the country to review its strategy, fearing a gas cut as happened in Poland and Bulgaria after refusing to pay their bills in rubles, the Kremlin’s demand. Italy agreed to submit to it. The Italian energy group, Eni, owned by the state with 30.3%, announced its decision to open an account in euros and another in rubles with Gazprombank in order to fulfill its payments for the supply of Russian deliverable gas. “In the coming days”. But the move may conflict with Brussels, which believes that opening an account in rubles is a violation of sanctions and will lead to EU violating actions.

Renewable energies and joint procurement

Since the conflict began, the European Union has urged its member states to reduce their dependence by 2027. In 2020, the EU received 400 billion cubic meters of gas, of which about 152 billion came from Russia, which is almost 40% of imports. And if Brussels considers that the withdrawal will take five years, a study published last March by four think tanks (Ember, E3G, RAP and Bellona) estimates that the goal can be achieved in just three years. In fact, the European Union has put forward several solutions to reduce its reliance, particularly on the acceleration of renewable energies. This Wednesday, the European Commission presented a plan worth 210 billion euros for this purpose, which also provides for energy savings to overcome “As fast as possible” Russian gas imports and securing European supplies. A strategy that will also make it possible to achieve the EU’s climate goals, namely a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

Another solution is “Working together on the joint procurement of natural gas, liquefied natural gas and hydrogen”, as proposed by the European Council at the end of March. For its part, the Commission announced that it would assist the 27 in establishing this program, starting from this year.