Energy rationing calls as Putin’s supply squeeze shakes up Europe

Graham Stuart refuses to rule out energy rationing this winter

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European Factories and households may have to ration energy again to prepare for next winter as it scrambles to adapt to plummeting Russian supplies, warned the boss of one of Europe’s biggest energy suppliers. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in mid-February, EU leaders raced to build up their gas reserves this winter to ensure the security of supplies and the shielding of citizens from even higher energy prices.

While Russian supplies accounted for some of the gas pouring into storage facilities, imports have plummeted following the invasion due to both supply cuts and an attempt by the EU to slash its staggering dependence on the Kremlin.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, Russian gas accounted for 40 percent of continental Europe’s total supplies. But as of August 2022, that figure hit just 17 percent.

Europe then raced to ramp up shipments of liquified natural gas (LNG) from alternative producers from across the globe.

But this is not the only crucial measure that is needed to ensure supplies are kept secure. Anders Opedal, chief executive of Norway’s oil and gas producer Equinor, has warned that there needs to be a “further reduction in demand” to help refill gas storage sites ahead of next winter too. It comes after an earlier agreement to conserve energy was struck by EU leaders.

The Equinor boss told the Telegraph that warm weather had so far helped keep storage stocks high.

He added: “Most likely we’ll also be able to refill the storage for next winter. But that will require a further reduction in demand.

“And it will require a massive import of liquified natural gas (LNG). So that means that really LNG imports will be one of the critical factors.

“And then, there are unknowns such as the weather, both in Europe and Asia. Any supply disruption will also have an impact on the market. So I would say it’s a little bit of a nervous market going forward.”

This comes after Energy ministers from the 27 member states, excluding Hungary, agreed on a voluntary 15 percent reduction in gas usage over the winter. It was warned that this could become compulsory if the Kremlin slammed the breaks entirely on its gas deliveries to Europe.

The deal came under 24 hours after Russia’s state-owned gas conglomerate, Gazprom, announced that it was slashing deliveries through the major Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of blackmailing European countries for supporting Ukraine by “weaponising” energy supplies.

She said back in July: “The announcement by Gazprom that it is further cutting gas deliveries to Europe through Nord Stream 1, for no justifiable technical reason, further illustrates the unreliable nature of Russia as an energy supplier.

“Thanks to today’s decision, we are now ready to address our energy security at a European scale, as a union.”

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The UK, meanwhile, is far less reliant on Russian gas and only got around five percent of supplies from Russia before the war.

However, the Government launched an energy-saving campaign in December as the squeeze on Europe’s supplies sent wholesale costs soaring. This has had a huge knock-on impact on households, who are now paying double the amount for their bills compared with 2021.

The “It All Adds Up” campaign is an £18million initiative by the Government aimed at raising public awareness of simple actions that households can take to cut their bills. It provides tips for bringing down energy use while still keeping homes warm.

Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps said: “No one is immune to rising energy bills this winter, so it’s in everyone’s interest to use every trick in the book to use less energy while keeping homes warm and staying safe.

“For very little or no cost, you can save pounds. It all adds up, so I urge people to take note of the advice in this new campaign and follow the easy steps to cut your fuel bills.”

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