According to him, European governments should take measures to reduce demand and keep aging nuclear power plants in operation, Birol said in an interview with the Financial Times.
Russia’s recent decision to cut gas supplies to European countries could, according to the IEA chief, be a prelude to further reducing Russian gas exports.
“Europe should be prepared for a complete shutdown of Russian gas supplies,” Birol told the Financial Times. “The closer the winter is, the clearer Russia’s intentions are. I believe that the reduction in supply should prevent Europe from filling its reservoirs and increase Russia’s influence in the winter months, “he added.
Last week, Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom severely curtailed supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which transports gas from Russia to Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Gazprom justifies the measure with delays in the repair of compressor turbines by Siemens Energy. However, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck described supply cuts as a politically motivated move by Russia to create uncertainty and raise gas prices.
“I do not rule out that Russia will continue to look for various problems and pretexts for further reducing gas supplies to Europe and may even stop these supplies completely,” Birol said in a statement to Reuters.
Last year, the European Union imported 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia. Russian gas thus accounted for about 45 percent of total gas imports into the EU and about 40 percent of total gas consumption in the EU.
Birol said the latest measures by European countries to reduce gas consumption, which include greater use of coal for electricity generation, were justified given the scale of the current crisis, despite concerns about rising carbon emissions. He noted that the increase in electricity production from coal is only temporary and will help maintain gas supplies for heating in the winter months.
He also added that increased emissions from coal combustion should offset the acceleration of European plans to reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports and build capacity to produce electricity from renewable sources.
However, Birol warned that the actions taken by European governments so far would probably not be enough if gas supplies from Russia were completely stopped. “I believe that with the approaching winter, more and more extensive measures will be coming regarding demand,” he said. He added that the introduction of an allocation system in gas supply remains a real possibility in the event of a disruption of Russian supplies.
The IEA chief also said that European countries should try to postpone all decommissioning plans to help reduce the amount of gas used to generate electricity. Germany is currently facing criticism that, despite the current crisis, it still plans to close all its remaining nuclear power plants, the Financial Times writes.