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Europe warned to prepare for ‘total shutdown’ of Russian gas exports before winter

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European governments have lowered their demand for Russian gas since the invasion of Ukraine (Reuters)
European governments have lowered their demand for Russian gas since the invasion of Ukraine (Reuters)

European countries should prepare for a "total shutdown" on Russian gas supplies ahead of winter, the International Energy Agency has warned.

The agency said governments should take preparatory action, including keeping aging nuclear power stations online.

Europe should be ready in case Russian gas is completely cut off,” said the IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol.

“The nearer we are coming to winter, the more we understand Russia’s intentions,” he told the FT.

“I believe the cuts are geared towards avoiding Europe filling storage, and increasing Russia’s leverage in the winter months.”

He also told the paper he believed measures taken by countries such as Austria and Germany, which have fired up old coal-fired power plants, were justified, despite the worsening climate crisis.

He said such measures were "temporary" and would help keep gas demand low, allowing those countries to save stored gas for heating this winter.

The European Union is aiming to get the level of gas it has in storage to 90 per cent of its total capacity by the beginning of December.

European governments have together lowered their demand for Russian gas from 40 per cent of total supplies ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, to around 20 per cent now.

This has largely been done through diversifying supplies to increase shipped cargoes of liquified natural gas (LNG).

But Dr Birol also warned that current measures by European countries to cut back on gas usage did not go far enough if Russia was to cut supplies.

“I believe there will be more and deeper demand measures [taken by governments in Europe] as winter approaches,” he said, suggesting the introduction of rationing gas supplies could soon become a real possibility depending on whether Russia decides to slash exports further.

Last year the IEA said there was "no place" for new fossil fuels in the global energy mix if the world was to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

And ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, the agency called for greater action, warning that the world was failing to hit its climate goals, and must accelerate the shift to clean energy.

"The cost of inaction is immense", Dr Birol said.

To put the energy system on track, investment in infrastructure and clean energy projects must triple over the next decade in order to “jolt the energy system onto a new set of rails”, particularly in emerging and developing economies.

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