Escalating tensions with Russia over Ukraine have raised concerns about Russian gas flows to Europe, prompting the EU to review its contingency plans for supply shocks, and EU and U.S. officials to seek alternative supplies.
“Our models now show that for partial disruption or further decrease of gas deliveries by Gazprom, we are now rather on the safe side,” von der Leyen told reporters in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
The EU has spoken with the United States, Qatar, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Nigeria and South Korea about increasing gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) deliveries, either through additional shipments or contract swaps, von der Leyen said.
“We have also spoken to major suppliers of LNG... in order to ask whether we could swap contracts in favour of the EU,” she said, adding that Japan was willing to do this. “These efforts are now distinctly paying off.”
Von der Leyen said infrastructure development in recent years meant Europe was better equipped to distribute gas and power between countries, but that a complete halt to Russian gas supplies would still require additional measures.
According to her, Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine had emphasised the need for Europe to curb reliance on Russian gas, and this would be aided by its planned shift to renewable energy.
Russia supplies about 40% of Europe’s natural gas. Gas prices soared in Europe as tight supply collided with high demand in economies emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic last year, and amid lower than expected imports from Russia.
The potential short-term impact of a disruption to Russian gas supply has eased as Europe heads towards spring, when demand for gas-fuelled heating typically declines. Europe’s gas storage levels are currently around 34% full.