The head of the International Energy Agency warns Europe to prepare for a complete shutdown of Russian gas exports

The International Energy Agency has warned that Europe should prepare immediately for a complete cutoff of Russian gas exports this winter, and urged governments to take measures to reduce demand and keep aging nuclear power plants open.

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said Russia’s decision to… Reduce gas supply To European countries last week may be a prelude to further cuts as Moscow looks to gain “influence” during its war with Ukraine.

“Europe should be ready in the event that Russian gas is completely cut off,” Birol told the Financial Times in an interview.

“The closer we get to winter, the more we understand Russia’s intentions,” he said. “I think the cuts are geared toward avoiding Europe filling up storage, and increasing Russia’s influence in the winter months.”

The International Energy Agency, funded mainly by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, was last year one of the first official bodies to publicly accuse Russia. gas supply manipulation to Europe in the run-up to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Birol said that the emergency measures taken by European countries this week to reduce gas demand such as Ignite old coal-fired power plantswas justified by the scale of the crisis despite concerns about an increase in carbon emissions.

    Fatih Birol

IEA chief Fatih Birol: “Europe must be ready if Russian gas is completely cut off” © Claus Fisker / Reuters

He said the increase in coal power generation was “temporary” and would help maintain gas supplies for heating in winter. He added that any additional carbon dioxide emissions from burning highly polluting coal would be offset by an acceleration in Europe’s plans to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels and build renewable generation capacity.

But Birol Warning that steps taken by European governments so far may not have been enough if Russian exports are cut off completely, he said countries should do everything they can to maintain supplies now to ensure storage is full before the winter months.

I think there will be more and deeper ordering procedures [taken by governments in Europe] With winter approaching. “

Sweden and Denmark on Tuesday followed the lead of Germany, Austria and the Netherlands in announcing the first phase of emergency plans to maintain gas supplies, but none of these national plans so far included rationing.

Europe has reduced its dependence on Russian gas to about 20 percent of total supplies since the Ukrainian invasion, from about 40 percent before, according to ICIS consultancy, but has already exploited most options to diversify supplies, such as seaborne shipments of liquefied natural materials. Gas.

The head of the International Energy Agency said countries should try to delay shutting down any nuclear power facilities designated for shutdowns to help reduce the amount of gas burned in electricity generation.

Germany has faced constant criticism for its decision to continue shutting down its last nuclear plant during energy crisis.

While Birol did not specify which country, he said everyone “should consider postponing the closures.” [of nuclear power plants] As long as safety conditions are in place.”

Berlin has indicated that it believes the technical and safety barriers to keeping factories open are too great.

Birol was speaking before the publication of a new International Energy Agency investment report on Wednesday, warning that governments have not done enough to encourage investment in renewable energy to reduce demand for fossil fuels. Total energy investment this year is expected to grow 8 percent to $2.4 trillion, with growth coming from renewables and rising costs.

The International Energy Agency said last year that the world did not need to invest in new oil and gas fields if governments were to reach their net-zero targets by 2050.

Without enacting policies to drastically reduce fossil fuel consumption, Birol said, the world will continue to face dangerous fluctuations in oil and gas prices. “Unless governments get in the driver’s seat and mobilize the big money to create a transition to clean energy, we will have to deal with extreme energy fluctuations,” he said.

And while there were some positive signs of increased investment in cleaner forms of energy, stemming in part from Europe’s desire to wean itself off its addiction to Russian energy, he said the picture globally was mixed at best.

In the developing world, with the exception of China, investment in renewable energy has not grown in real terms since 2015. Birol also said that developing countries that depend on fossil fuel production need to use the windfall profits from higher prices to diversify their economies.

“The relative weakness of investment in clean energy in much of the developing world is one of the most worrying trends,” the IEA report said.