Europe will need to tap more diverse sources of gas and develop more supplies of controversial shale gas within the continent, amid concerns over the Ukraine crisis, according to a new energy security strategy unveiled by the European commission on Wednesday.
But green campaigners pointed to a change from earlier proposals for the strategy in favour of more emphasis on gas at the expense of green fuels and reducing demand. They slammed the published strategy for promoting fossil fuels too heavily and failing to give a key role to energy efficiency and renewables
Increasing the sources of supply for the EU’s imports of gas was cited as the priority by the bloc’s energy chief, Guenther Oettinger. About 40% of the EU’s imported gas supply comes from Russia, with around a third from Norway and a fifth from north Africa. But in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, energy experts are worried that this over-dependence on Russia could expose European business and citizens to threats from the Kremlin and higher prices. Russia earlier this month signed a $400bn deal to supply gas to China.
Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European commission, made it clear in launching the strategy that gas was at its heart: “The EU has done a lot in the aftermath of the gas crisis 2009 to increase its energy security. Yet, it remains vulnerable. The tensions over Ukraine again drove home this message. In the light of an overall energy import dependency of more than 50% we have to make further steps. Increasing energy security is in all our interest. On energy security, Europe must speak and act as one.”
Reducing the over-dependency on Russia and getting new gas supplies were cited as part of a “long list of homework” for the EU by Oettinger. “We want strong and stable partnerships with important suppliers, but must avoid falling victim to political and commercial blackmail,” he said. “We need to accelerate the diversification of external energy suppliers, especially for gas.”
Increasing indigenous energy production was also listed as a priority by the commission. But as well as including renewable energy, which has been the main focus in the past, this would now explicitly include “sustainable production of fossil fuels”, which would be expected to include shale gas.