Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters
Russian energy company Gazprom announced a drastic reduction in gas deliveries through its main gas pipeline to Europe from Wednesday, prompting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to accuse Moscow of waging a “gas war”.
Russia’s gas export monopoly said it was shutting down one of the last two turbines in operation due to the “technical condition of the engine”, cutting daily gas deliveries through the Nord Stream pipeline to 33 million cubic meters per day – about 20% of pipeline capacity.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely in close exchange with the Federal Network Agency and the Gas Crisis Team,” Germany’s economy ministry said in a statement on Monday after Gazprom’s announcement. “According to our information, there is no technical reason for a reduction in deliveries.”
Zelenskiy, in his Monday night video address, said the move was deliberate and urged the European Union to accept tougher sanctions against Russia. “All of this is done on purpose by Russia to make it as difficult as possible for Europeans to prepare for winter. And it is an open gas war that Russia is waging against a united Europe,” he said. .
Moscow’s “gas blackmail of Europe” represented “an incentive to significantly tighten the EU’s eighth sanctions package”, he said.
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline resumed pumping last week, after a 10-day maintenance breakbut the European Commission has warned that a complete gas shutdown by Russia is likely.
The announcement came as EU governments squabbled over a plan for a 15% gas savings target meant to avert a winter crisis if the Kremlin shut off the taps to Europe. The EU’s goal is to use less gas now to build storage for the winter.
Last week, the EU executive accused Moscow of using energy as a ‘weapon’ and called on all 27 member states to accept a voluntary 15% gas savings targetwhich could become mandatory if Brussels declares a supply emergency.
EU officials had hoped the bloc’s 27 energy ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday would approve the 15% gas savings plan. Instead, countries from across Europe have raised objections, led by Spain and Portugal, which are relatively isolated from the EU gas pipeline network.
The proposals were considered designed for Germany, facing energy rationing as he struggles to undo decades of reliance on Russian gas. Echoing the deadly debates of the eurozone crisis a decade ago, where arguments raged over bailouts, debt and blame, countries in the South suggested that their citizens should not have to make sacrifices for the past policies of others.
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Teresa Ribera said last week that her country was being asked to make a “disproportionate sacrifice”, as she highlighted the investments her country had made in liquefied natural gas infrastructure, costs that were fallen on Spanish businesses and consumers, she said. “Unlike other countries, we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means from an energy point of view,” Ribera said in unusually pointed comments.
Portugal was “totally against” the proposals its energy minister, João Galamba, told local media last week, saying they did not meet the needs of Spain or Portugal, which have little support. gas interconnections with the rest of Europe. Iberian countries are also using more gas to generate electricity because a fierce drought has reduced hydroelectricity production.
Greece also opposes the EU-wide 15% target, which it says overburdens its economy and consumers.
Meanwhile, Poland has raised concerns about its energy security. A Polish official said that Warsaw “would not accept any solution that could lead to the use of Polish natural gas reserves for the needs of other member states”.
France, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland were among the countries that opposed giving the commission the power to declare a supply emergency. Instead, it is proposed that EU member states take this crucial decision.
Under revised proposals, which were still under discussion with EU deputy ambassadors on Monday, countries can get an exemption from the 15% target if they are not connected to another gas interconnector’s system. Member state. The target can also be relaxed if countries offer to send gas to a member state in need.
EU sources dismissed suggestions that the plan was designed for Germany, arguing that all member states would feel the economic pain of a Russian gas shutdown.
“I don’t accept the logic that this is all for Germany,” said a senior EU official. “It’s not about who gets hit first because if [a supply shock] hits then I think the problem will be shared immediately. We are in the internal market and… the pain will be considerable for all Member States.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week that the Kremlin was likely to order a complete shutdown of Russian gas to the EU, dealing a hammer blow to Europe’s single market. EU officials have suggested countries accelerate the switch to renewables, but also said states could consider delaying the exit from coal and nuclear power.
The Belgian government announced last week that it had reached a political agreement to extend the life of two nuclear power plants by 10 years, citing national security. The Doel 4 and Tihange 3 reactors will be restarted in 2026, the Belgian government having revised a plan to phase out all nuclear energy by 2025.