Energy ministers from European Union countries have agreed to urgently link their power system to Ukraine’s grid. The move would increase Europe’s energy independence from Russia following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The invasion by Russia, Europe’s top gas supplier, has sharpened concerns of energy disruptions to supplies and has increased scrutiny of the EU’s reliance on imported fossil fuels. It has also raised concerns regarding Ukraine’s own energy system.
“There was a broad agreement around the table. Based on this, we will move forward… to connect Ukraine’s electricity system as quickly as possible,” said EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson after the meeting.
Last week, Ukraine disconnected its grid from Russia and has asked for emergency synchronization with the European system. This means that Russia no longer controls technical aspects of Ukraine’s network including grid frequency.
According to EU officials, the linking of grids could be completed within weeks.
While it was possible that Russia could undertake “retaliatory steps” which will affect Europe’s energy supplies, in response to Western sanctions, however current gas storage levels along with increased liquefied natural gas (LNG) deliveries is likely to see Europe through this winter.
According to a draft plan, the European Commission will next week propose a requirement for countries to fill gas storage to minimum levels ahead of winter, to bolster countries against supply and price shocks. The proposals will also include measures to faster expand renewable energy even as Brussels re-emphasizes the need to shift away from relying on imported fossil fuels to not only fight climate change but also in reference to energy security.
To meet its 2030 climate target, the EU expects to reduce gas consumption more than 25% from 2015 levels, although gas is expected to retain a significant share of Europe’s energy mix for at least the next decade.
“We have to work on developing low-carbon energy, renewables so we’re no longer so dependent on gas,” said France’s ecological transition minister Barbara Pompili.
Russia supplies around 40% of Europe’s gas. EU rules require all member countries to have a plan to respond to gas supply shocks, which they have updated in recent weeks.
According to analysts, a complete or prolonged halt to Russian gas deliveries to Europe would have severe economic repercussions, including closure of factories.
EU ministers also discussed a proposal from Greece for a new EU fund to provide low-interest loans to help governments finance measures to tackle high energy prices.
In recent months, the increase in gas prices have seen energy cost for households and industries witness a major jump prompting governments, in most EU countries, to offer subsidies and tax breaks.
“We must not underestimate the consequences of the Russian invasion on energy prices and energy security,” said Greece’s energy minister Kostas Skrekas.