Commission for natural gas: Winter is coming, households are protected

Commission for natural gas: Winter is coming, households are protected

Her optimism that an energy crisis will not break out next winter, as long as preventive measures are taken now, Energy Commissioner Country Simson expresses to DW.

Can the EU make it through the winter? no natural gas from russia? And if alternative suppliers are found, at what price will they supply us with the necessary natural gas? Speaking to Deutsche Welle, EU Energy Commissioner Cadre Simpson notes the problems, but argues that Europe is well-armoured against the looming energy crisis. “We’re definitely going to survive the winter,” says Country Simpson. “Already since the beginning of the year we have started the necessary preparations. We know that Russia is not a reliable partner and can turn off the tap at any time. But we are prepared. We know that with the help of reliable suppliers and with natural gas tanks filling up, we can get through the winter safely, without resorting to emergency mechanisms.”

The Commissioner from Estonia admits that the agreement on a common European line was not easy, as was also seen in the last extraordinary meeting of energy ministers in Brussels. Probably no one expected anything different, since as he points out, the member states have a different energy mix and different needs. Finally an agreement was reached. What is important now, the Commissioner emphasizes, is “to start saving energy immediately. Preventive measures will allow us to get through the winter with less economic loss and less painful consequences for our industry than if we did nothing now and suddenly in the winter Russia decided to cut off natural gas. So we don’t wait for the next steps of others, we proceed alone with the necessary preparation”.

“Sanctions demonstrate solidarity within the EU”

Many believe that the threatened energy crisis, as well as the more general geopolitical developments after Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, have once again divided Europe. The Commissioner does not agree with this assessment. “The best proof of the prevailing spirit of solidarity is the seven packages of sanctions that have been unanimously imposed on Russia and cover various sectors of energy production. We already have a reliable network of alternative routes for natural gas and there we see member states supporting neighboring countries. We are now coordinating European-wide liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes as well, as we are now importing record quantities from suppliers other than Russia…”

Kadri Simson, who previously served as Estonia’s finance minister, points to the fact that US LNG imports have tripled in recent months in an effort to replace Russian gas. The question is, of course, what all this means for households in Europe. Will they be asked to pay the price of geopolitical developments? The Commissioner is categorical: “Households are considered ‘protected consumers’, it is important to know that. Even in the worst case scenario where we lose some LNG cargoes to international competition and have a very harsh winter with unusually low temperatures, we will protect households. Our houses will have heating. That doesn’t mean we can’t help, too, by turning down the thermostat a bit, for example. This is also an act of solidarity”.

“Nuclear energy is a national choice”

In the wake of the fuel conservation debate, the nuclear power lobby is making a comeback. The EU has already decided to include atomic energy in the “green forms of energy” for a transitional period, until it becomes independent of fossil fuels. Today many – including the German Finance Minister Christian Lindner – are proposing the reopening of nuclear plants in order to meet the increased needs of the winter. Responding to the question about restoring nuclear energy, Commissioner Simpson points out: “Based on the European Treaties, member states are free to choose the energy mix they wish. Some prefer to achieve climate goals with the help of nuclear energy, and there are five member states that still import nuclear fuel from Russia. We are helping these member states to become independent of these imports as soon as possible.”

DW – Duncan Finlay, Christine Moudga/Yiannis Papadimitriou

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