Brussels’ 300 billion plan to get rid of Russian gas as quickly as possible

Saving, diversifying, accelerating and investing, could be the slogan for the €300 billion plan just detailed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, on Wednesday, May 18. This plan is called REPowerEU, and it consists of weaning the EU as quickly as possible from Russian fossil fuels, and more specifically from its gas, while the EU27 imported about 155 billion cubic meters of it last year. This represents about 40% of total EU gas imports. The XXL directly finances Vladimir Putin’s war machine, whose army invaded Ukraine on February 24.

“Vladimir Putin’s war is a major disruption to the global energy market and shows how dependent we are on Russia,” Ursula von der Leyen announced, during a press conference, while confirming that Russian gas fell last April to 26% of European gas imports. “But we have to go faster.”And fired, while the urgency of EU energy sovereignty is even more important since Russia itself cut off gas supplies from Poland and Bulgaria.

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The REPowerEU plan is based on several deadlines. First, it should allow the EU to eliminate two-thirds of Russian gas imports by the end of the year, or about 110 billion cubic metres. Then, it should lead to a structural reform of the European energy system by 2027-2030 to ensure its independence, while accelerating the energy transition in the 27th.

“The security emergency and the climate emergency go hand in hand.”We say by the European Executive.

So the action plan presupposes promoting decarbonization targets for the European economy, which were set last summer as part of Fit For 55, this legislative package that should enable the old continent to reduce its gas emissions by 55% of the greenhouse effect by 2030.

“It is a question of putting the turbo on our European Green Deal,” in short, in front of the press, Ursula von der Leyen.

Thus, the REPowerEU program revolves around four pillars. The first is to reduce our energy consumption, particularly through energy efficiency measures. A point that has been underestimated under the Fit For 55 package. Brussels now estimates that it is necessary to achieve 13% energy efficiency by 2030, against the 9% initially planned in the Fit For 55 legislative package. Energy savings should be to largely based on improving energy efficiency in buildings, of which 35 million must be renovated in Europe by 2030.

Energy saving

“Energy saving is the fastest, easiest and most cost-effective way to deal with today’s energy crisis,” Says the Executive Director of the European Union.

But Brussels also counts on the behavior of every citizen by inviting them to show energy sobriety. The Commission takes for example the campaign implemented by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which encourages consumers to lower the thermostat by one degree, reduce their speed on the highway or prefer remote work. And therefore Brussels considers it “Behavioural changes could reduce demand for gas and oil by 5% in the short term.”

The second axis is the diversification of gas supplies. With this in mind, the EU intends to switch to pipelined gas from Azerbaijan, Algeria and Norway. But also the import of large quantities of LNG by sea (60 billion cubic meters in 2022) from the United States, West Africa, Egypt and Australia. However, this would require investment in new infrastructure capable of handling these volumes, particularly in northern Germany and central and eastern Europe. Thus 10 billion euros will be pumped into the missing links. Investments subject to criticism from some observers.

Risky bet on LNG

“Strategies based on LNG are doubly dangerous. On the one hand, terminal construction will not be completed for four to six years, which already brings us to 2026. However, LNG prices, due to the tension on the international market, will inevitably be higher of Russian gaspoints to an industry professional, who recommends focusing above all on clean solutions.

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Moreover, the life span of these infrastructures, which are incompatible with carbon neutrality, extends over several decades. So these stations can become stranded assets or, conversely, lock up the twenty-seven in the use of fossil fuels.

“This is a limited number of infrastructures to meet future needs without sequestering fossil fuels. These infrastructures must be compatible with hydrogen use. We will not violate the Green Agreement.”It included, for its part, the European Executive.

Solar panels (almost) on every roof

The third pillar is to accelerate the deployment of renewable energies. Brussels therefore proposes increasing the share of renewable energies in the energy mix from 40 to 45% by 2030. In concrete terms, this would translate to 1,236 gigawatts of renewable energy on this horizon (equivalent to 100 EPR), compared to 511 gigawatts currently. The focus is on photovoltaics, “The fastest spreading renewable energy”, Brussels aims to produce 600 gigawatts of capacity by 2030. This must pass through the massive deployment of rooftop solar plants. Thus, by 2025, public and commercial buildings of more than 250 square meters will have to be equipped with solar panels. This obligation applies to new residential buildings from 2029.

In order for member states to keep pace with this rapid pace, the commission intends to popularize good practices in order to reduce the time required to obtain permits, which averages 9 years in wind energy and 4.5 years in solar energy. The idea is to promote participatory approaches to simplify licensing procedures, while preserving the environment. In parallel with these recommendations, Brussels would like to revise the European directive to introduce the principle that renewable energies constitute a supreme public interest. Objective: To ensure that the permitting process does not exceed one year.

Still in terms of renewables, Brussels wants to create a green hydrogen accelerator to produce 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen domestically and also import 10 million tons by 2030. The goal: to replace gas, oil and coal in industry and heavy mobility. However, some experts in the sector have discussed the importance of this domestic production of green hydrogen to get rid of Russian gas and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. “This acceleration is a bit embarrassing.”admits Cedric Philibert, researcher in the Center for Energy and Climate at the French Institute of International Relations. “We don’t have enough low-carbon electricity to produce this hydrogen. This could lead us to use gas and coal to produce hydrogen by electrolysis of water and so emit more carbon dioxide.”he explains.

Huge investment

The last pillar is about the investments that should be “particle”. Brussels has estimated these investments at 300 billion, including 210 billion additional investments planned between now and 2027. A large part of it will be in the form of loans, and the rest via grants.

Of this envelope of 300 billion, 12 billion will be allocated to new infrastructure intended for gas and oil. “All the rest of the funding will go towards intensifying the transition to clean energy.”, reassured the head of the European Executive. In detail, 113 billion will be allocated to renewable energies, 29 billion to the electricity grid, 37 billion to bio-methane production, 56 billion to energy efficiency and heat pump deployment, and finally 41 billion to adaptation. From industrial processes to a low carbon economy. These investments, in particular, should allow industrial sectors to increase capacity by relying on new supply chains.

The REPowerEU plan was first defined on March 8, and the REPowerEU plan must now be discussed and approved by the heads of member states of the next European Council, which will take place on May 30 and 31.