The head of the International Energy Agency said that Europe must prepare “immediately” for Russia to cut off all gas exports to the region this winter. He also urged governments to work on reducing demand and keeping nuclear power plants operational.
According to Fatih Birol, the recent supply cuts attributed to maintenance work by the Kremlin could be the start of larger cuts designed to prevent the filling of storage facilities in preparation for winter, as Russia seeks to gain leverage over the region, as reported by The Guardian.
“Europe should be ready in case Russian gas is completely cut off,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times. “The nearer we are coming to winter, the more we understand Russia’s intentions.”
“I believe the cuts are geared towards avoiding Europe filling storage, and increasing Russia’s leverage in the winter months.”
EU countries are racing to replenish storage facilities, with Germany hoping to reach 90% capacity by November. According to The Guardian, its stores are only half full.
Member states have also worked to reduce their reliance on Russian fossil fuels by sourcing gas from other countries, including the United States, and hastening the transition to renewable energy, though officials have admitted that the race to phase out Russian oil and gas would mean burning more coal and keeping nuclear plants operational.
Birol stated that emergency measures taken by European governments to reduce energy demand were likely insufficient, and he urged countries to work on preserving energy supplies.
“I believe there will be more and deeper demand measures as winter approaches,” Birol said. He added that gas supplies may need to be rationed, if Russia were to further reduce gas exports.
In recent weeks, Moscow has reduced or even cut off gas deliveries to several EU countries in response to their decision to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Russian gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which runs beneath the Baltic Sea to Germany, have been declining, according to The Guardian.