Demand for gas in the European Union is expected to decline by more than the bloc’s total imports from Russia this year, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing an internal European Commission document. The majority of the cuts were made by the EU’s most industrialized countries.
Gas consumption will reportedly see a decrease of 60 billion cubic meters in 2023 compared to the average for the last five years.
The figure represents “more than the gas volumes we still foresee to import from Russia in 2023, both pipeline and [liquefied natural gas],” reads the document seen by the FT.
The figure is also 8 billion cubic meters more than EU nations saved during the height of the energy crisis in 2022.
The substantial drop in demand was not simply down to “good luck,” EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson reportedly stated at a meeting on Wednesday. Instead, she claimed it had resulted from a series of emergency laws adopted last year in a bid to decrease the bloc’s reliance on supplies from Russia.
At the same time, energy experts have cited the mild winter of 2022 as helping EU members to consume less energy, while high prices resulted in energy-intensive industries scaling back production.
Last year, member states agreed to voluntarily reduce gas consumption by 15% from August 2022 until March 2023. The EU executive branch said that the target had been surpassed, and the agreement was extended for another 12 months in March.
According to a report by the European Environmental Bureau, as quoted by the FT, only 14 out of 27 EU nations have adopted compulsory measures to slash energy consumption.
Five out of the 14 – Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal – reportedly made up 60% of the fall in demand, while Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania were the only member states that have not implemented any energy-saving regulations. This is partially attributed to already low gas demand in those countries.
“The most robust measures on gas savings have been implemented in countries that import large quantities of Russian gas such as Italy and Germany,” the report seen by the FT reads.
The EU previously covered about two-fifths of its gas needs through Russian energy imports. According to preliminary data from the EC, the bloc’s imports of Russian gas in March were 74% lower than they were in the same month two years ago.
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