Europe seeks energy self-sufficiency

The conflict in Ukraine is putting Western countries, especially European countries, in a difficult situation as they want to embargo Russia's economy, but they are heavily dependent on Moscow's energy sources. Self-reliance and increased supply are some of the ways that Western countries are seeking to solve the energy problem.

The WINGAS gas storage facility near Rehden, northern Germany. (Photo: REUTERS)
The WINGAS gas storage facility near Rehden, northern Germany. (Photo: REUTERS)

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed a decree stipulating that all gas supply contracts with companies of “unfriendly” countries must be paid in Rubles. Putin's “ultimatum” has forced European countries to prepare for the scenario of Russia cutting off the gas.

Accordingly, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has announced that the UK may build more domestic nuclear power plants as part of its energy expansion strategy. The UK will announce a new energy security strategy on April 7 and according to this plan, the UK is expected to have six to seven nuclear power plants by 2050.

Meanwhile, Germany, which is heavily dependent on Russian energy, is also striving for energy self-sufficiency. German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck has just said that Berlin is ready for all possibilities and carefully considering, even “the most unlikely scenarios”. In an interview with German newspaper RP on April 2, Habeck stated that gas supplies continue to be guaranteed at present.

However, a revival package will be discussed in the German cabinet next week, including many changes to the law to expand renewable energy sources. This will be a renewable energy package aimed at energy independence and security for Germany.

Minister Habeck believes that by next fall or winter, Germany will be ready to be independent of Russia's raw material supplies. Earlier, he warned about the possibility of Russia cutting off gas supplies because of Western sanctions.

Along with the UK and Germany's efforts to diversify supply sources and become self-sufficient in energy, Western countries, led by the US, are looking for ways to increase the supply of oil and gas to reduce energy prices which are creating an “inflation storm” around the world.

US President Joe Biden has just announced the decision to release about one million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) for 180 days, to cool down fuel prices. The US administration’s latest move follows previous releases of SPR, including 30 million barrels in early March.

The release is a way to increase supplies as a bridge until the US ramp up production by the end of this year, a senior US administration official said.

Responding to the US’ move, more than 30 countries around the world met at a special conference and agreed to release additional tens of millions of oil barrels to the market.

According to the US press, China, Japan, India, the Republic of Korea and the UK have also taken measures to free up strategic oil reserves to help stabilise the market.

This bold move has so far helped cool the overheated global oil market and placate the severe inflationary spells that have plagued the US economy as well as many other countries.

Analysts say that releasing the reserves is a solution to the shortage of oil from Russia. The OPEC + group of 32 oil-producing countries led by Saudi Arabia, also approved a measure in March to increase output by 432,000 barrels per day.