Europe's energy alternatives if Russian gas stops

STORY: What will Europe do if Russia turns off the gas taps?

Russia usually supplies about 40% of Europe's natural gas, mostly by pipeline.

But with the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that transports gas from Russia to Germany undergoing planned maintenance – it raises the question – what happens if the outage is extended?

German network regulator, Klaus Mueller says it’s no guarantee that the gas will come back after the 10-day maintenance period.

“Nord Stream 1 has informed us as is customary. However, what happens once the maintenance is done remains to be seen, no one can predict that. Is it a maintenance which is over in 10 days, or earlier or later? Unfortunately, we have to wait and see. I also don’t expect us to be informed much earlier than the day before.”

With Ukraine having closed the Sokhranovka transit pipeline that runs through Russian-occupied territory in the east of the country… European countries have been seeking to cut their reliance on Russian gas.

Some have already been cut off after they rejected a Russian demand to pay in roubles.

But others, including Germany, still need Russian gas and are trying to refill depleted reserves.

One alternative route to Europe that does not go via Ukraine includes the Yamal-Europe pipeline,

which carries around a sixth of Russian gas exports to Europe.

If not from Russia, where else can Europe get its gas?

Some countries have alternative supply options and Europe's gas network is linked up so supplies can be shared.

Germany, the biggest consumer of Russian gas, could import from Britain, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands via pipelines.

Norway, Europe's second biggest exporter behind Russia, has been pushing up production to help the European Union towards its target of ending reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

Centrica, a British energy and services company, has signed a deal with Norway's Equinor for extra gas supplies to the United Kingdom for the next three winters.

Britain does not rely on Russian gas and can also export to Europe via pipelines.

Southern Europe can receive Azeri gas via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline to Italy and the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) through Turkey.

And the United States has said it can supply 15 bcm of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the European Union this year.

Other options for nations to cope include turning to electricity imports via interconnectors from their neighbors.

Or they could boost power generation from nuclear, renewables, hydropower or coal.

But nuclear availability is falling in Belgium, Britain, France and Germany

with plants facing outages as they age, are decommissioned or phased out.

Europe has also been trying to shift away from coal to meet climate targets

but some coal plants have been switched back on since mid-2021 because of surging gas prices.

For now though, Germany, and Europe, remains in the dark about what will happen after the Nord Stream 1 maintenance is complete.

[Klaus Mueller] “Should there be a gas emergency we will take differentiated decisions on large gas consumers but this will only be possible from October, based on an IT platform. We would look at economic damages, economic consequences, the impact on supply chains and social dimensions. All this will be looked at from autumn. Up until then, we can unfortunately only take proportional decisions, or rather point by point individual decisions.”

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