The Ukraine conflict is spurring the world’s leading economies to cut their reliance on Russian energy to show President Vladimir Putin that there’s no going back to pre-crisis ties, U.K. Energy Secretary Ed Davey said.
There’s “a lot of agreement” and several options to diversify supplies, Davey said in an interview in Rome today before attending a two-day meeting of fellow Group of Seven ministers including Sigmar Gabriel of Germany, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger.
“We’re determined after this crisis not to go back to business as usual,” Davey said. “Russia has tried to use energy as a weapon on several occasions now, and we’ve got to learn. It would be completely negligent of the G-7, the EU and our international partners not to read the message that Putin is trying to tell us.”
The military escalation in Ukraine fanned by Russian separatists is intensifying calls in Europe and the U.S. for approval of plans to ship American natural gas to Europe. Russia provides about a third of the EU’s oil and gas needs, mainly via state-controlled OAO Gazprom and OAO Rosneft through pipelines that cross Ukraine.
The Ukraine crisis will make Europe review its energy mix and “that will mean never being 100 percent dependent on Russia,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington on May 2. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and Russia’s biggest EU trading partner, is pushing domestic renewables and energy efficiency, mirroring a wider EU strategy to protect supplies and the climate.
The U.S., whose industry and consumers are benefiting from energy prices depressed by a domestic shale gas boom, can help with gas imports, Obama said in March during a visit to Brussels. The Ukraine crisis means geopolitics may be given some “additional weight” when the U.S. considers whether to grant an application to export natural gas, Moniz said on March 21. Moniz declined to comment before today’s meeting in Rome.
Shipping U.S. liquefied natural gas to Europe is a long- term option at best, said Amanda Paul, a policy analyst at the European Policy Centre think-tank in Brussels.
“The idea of getting LNG from the U.S. is something that’s going to be a very long time, if we ever get it at all,” Paul said today by phone. While Europe could in the medium to long term also get more gas from from Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, reducing dependence on Russia is “not as easy as some people perhaps have imagined,” she said.
The EU’s overall energy dependency rate — the percentage of imports from outside the bloc — is set to rise to 80 percent by 2035 from the current 60 percent, according to the International Energy Agency.
One group of countries, which runs in an arc from Estonia in the northeast through Austria and down to Greece in the southeast, gets more than 75 percent of its gas imports from Russia, European Commission data show. Other major suppliers to Europe are Norway, Algeria and Qatar.
Davey said the Rome meeting is aimed at shoring up “clear unity” for a “very ambitious” new energy strategy. There is still “no short-term silver bullet” to achieve the group’s aims, he said.
Ministers are holding rounds of bilateral talks in Rome today with a news briefing scheduled for tomorrow at about 3 p.m. local time.
“No one expects that we can reduce Europe’s dependency overnight,” Davey said. “But I think if you see the links with the climate-change package that’s already well developed, there’s clearly a lot of investment we can do in everything from energy efficiency to renewables to nuclear, as well as other forms of gas.”
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