Measures implemented this year could bring down gas imports from Russia by over one-third, with additional temporary options to deepen these cuts to well over half while still lowering emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a 10-point plan released on 3 March.

In 2021, the European Union (EU) imported an average of over 380 million cubic metres (mcm) a day of gas by pipeline from Russia — around 140 billion cubic metres (bcm) for the year. In addition, 15 bcm was delivered as liquefied natural gas (LNG). The total 155 bcm imported from Russia accounted for around 45% of the EU’s gas imports in 2021 and almost 40% of its total gas consumption.

“Progress towards net zero ambitions in Europe will bring down gas use and imports over time, but today’s crisis raises specific questions about imports from Russia and what policy makers and consumers can do to lower them,” IEA said. The 12-page 10-point plan proposes a series of immediate actions that could be taken to reduce reliance on Russian gas, while enhancing the near-term resilence of the EU gas network and minimising the hardships for vulnerable consumers.

IEA says the proposed measures  could result in the EU’s annual call on Russian gas imports falling by more than 50 bcm within one year – a reduction of over one-third. “The 10-Point Plan is consistent with the EU’s climate ambitions and the European Green Deal and also points towards the outcomes achieved in the IEA Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Roadmap, in which the EU totally eliminates the need for Russian gas imports before 2030.”

IEA adds: “We also consider possibilities for Europe to go even further and faster to limit near-term reliance on Russian gas, although these would mean a slower near-term pace of EU emissions reductions. If Europe were to take these additional steps, then near-term Russian gas imports could be reduced by more than 80 bcm, or well over half.”

IEA notes that circumstances vary widely across the EU, depending on geography and supply arrangements. “Reducing reliance on Russian gas will not be simple, requiring a concerted and sustained policy effort across multiple sectors, alongside strong international dialogue on energy markets and security. There are multiple links between Europe’s policy choices and broader global market balances. Strengthened international cooperation with alternative pipeline and LNG exporters – and with other major gas importers and consumers – will be critical. Clear communication between governments, industry and consumers is also an essential element for successful implementation.”

The 10 points include:

  •  Do not sign any new gas supply contracts with Russia. [Impact: Enables greater diversification of supply this year and beyond]
  • Replace Russian supplies with gas from alternative sources [Impact: Increases non-Russian gas supply by around 30 billion cubic metres within a year]
  • Introduce minimum gas storage obligations [Impact: Enhances resilience of the gas system by next winter]
  • Accelerate the deployment of new wind and solar projects [Impact: Reduces gas use by 6 billion cubic metres within a year]
  • Maximise power generation from bioenergy and nuclear [Impact: Reduces gas use by 13 billion cubic metres within a year]
  • Enact short-term tax measures on windfall profits to shelter vulnerable electricity consumers from high prices [Impact: Cuts energy bills even when gas prices remain high]
  • Speed up the replacement of gas boilers with heat pumps [Impact: Reduces gas use by an additional 2 billion cubic metres within a year]
  • Accelerate energy efficiency improvements in buildings and industry [Impact: Reduces gas use by close to 2 billion cubic metres within a year]
  • Encourage a temporary thermostat reduction of 1 °C by consumers [Impact: Reduces gas use by some 10 billion cubic metres within a year]
  • Step up efforts to diversify and decarbonise sources of power system flexibility [Impact: Loosens the strong links between gas supply and Europe’s electricity security].