FILE PHOTO: European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks during a news conference on the European Commission fiscal guidance for 2023, in Brussels, Belgium March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
March 7, 2022
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission will present options on Tuesday to diversify its sources of energy and reinforce energy security to make it less reliant on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said on Monday.
Russia accounted for around 45% of EU gas imports in 2021 and close to 40% of EU gas consumption, according to the International Energy Agency. The dependence undermines EU efforts to sanction Russia and leaves it at the mercy of soaring energy prices.
“Tomorrow we intend to publish an energy communication where we outline what are the possible EU steps which can be taken to diversify away from Russian supplies, to increase our energy security,” Dombrovskis told the economics committee of the European Parliament.
Options included joint procurement of natural gas, setting up strategic storage with certain capacity levels to achieve ahead of the next winter season, as well as diversification of supplies, he said.
Lawmakers asked Dombrovskis and Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni to what extent existing funds aimed at aiding the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic could be steered towards the energy problems.
Dombrovskis said EU members had until August 2023 to indicate if they wanted to take up loans and that these could be used to finance investments in energy supply.
Gentiloni said recovery and resilience funds already had a heavy energy component, with 41% dedicated to climate objectives. Some 65 billion euros ($70.6 billion) was earmarked for energy efficiency and 27 billion euros for renewable energy and networks, he said.
The commissioner also said it was important to avoid divergence of policy across the EU in case of problems of gas supply.
“If a big crisis risks divergence among member states, we will have to put in our agenda a discussion of a further support and compensation mechanism,” Gentiloni said.
($1 = 0.9213 euro)
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by Matthew Lewis)