ENERGY SECURITYEurope Cooperates on Gas, as Russia Turns Off Taps to Poland, Bulgaria

By Barbara Wesel

Published 30 April 2022

Russia has halted gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria, ramping up the pressure on all EU states to find alternative suppliers. Some are working on cutting Russian gas altogether, others have plans to share with neighbors.

If Moscow continues insisting that gas deliveries be paid in rubles, EU members may increasingly find themselves cut off — as Poland and Bulgaria already have been. Next week, the European Union will discuss to what extent energy companies may circumvent Russia’s rubles-for-gas requirement without violating the new sanctions regime.

Specifically, energy companies are considering transferring euros to Gazprom Bank, which then automatically transfers the money to a ruble-denominatedaccount.

Should tensions with Russia escalate further, Europe could face a dramatic shortfall in gas. What’s the situation across the EU member states?

Rome is moving fast to wean itself off Russian gas imports. Last year, it imported 11.4 billion cubic meters of Russian gas, making Italy the bloc’s second largest buyer of Russian gas. Rome wants to put an end to this dependency by mid-2023. For now, Italy seeks to halve its imports. To this end, Rome has agreed new gas deals with Angola, the Congo Republic and Algeria. The trans-Mediterranean pipeline connects Italy directly with North Africa. Italy is also eyeing gas from Qatar, Mozambique and Azerbaijan.

Italy wants to import liquified natural gas (LNG) from Angola. It already operates three LNG terminals and aims to build more — authorities plan to have a Sicily terminal operational by next year. On top of this, Italy is seeking to drastically reduce its overall energy consumption.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Mario Draghi boiled the situation down to the following question: “Do we want to have peace or do we want to have the air conditioning on?”

Italy has made it illegal this summer to set air conditioning for schools and public buildings lower than 25 degrees Celsius; during winter, public buildings may not be heated beyond 19 degrees Celsius. This could save up to four billion cubic meters of gas per year, authorities say.

Greece could develop into a regional gas hub, supplying the wider Balkan region. This plan was originally hatched to reduce its dependence on Turkey; now, it could bring greater independence from Russian imports. The Trans Adriatic Pipelinewill play an important role in this context, as will future pipelines to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

The decision to expand and modernize the Revithousa LNG terminal near Athens was made by Greek authorities before the war in Ukraine began. It is used to distribute gas throughout the country. The country is now planning to install two additional terminals in Corinth andAlexandroupoli.