Can Europe Wean Itself Off Russian Gas?
Many European nations were searching for ways to cut back their reliance on Russian energy long before the crisis in Ukraine flared last month.
In 2006 and 2009, for example, the EU was rattled by the ease with which Moscow cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and other parts of Europe after disputes over cost and supply. The two-week standoff in 2009 left millions in Eastern Europe without heat in the middle of winter.
Russia supplies the European Union with about a third of its natural gas, shipped mostly by pipeline through Ukraine. And according to Kristine Berzina, an energy specialist with the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, Europe needed to find alternative ways to heat homes, fuel industrial production and generate power.
“I believe that if we fast-forward to 2018, 2019, we'll have a completely different natural gas landscape and potentially a much more resilient Europe.
"Europe has been trying to use other fuels to diversify the energy mix. In particular it has increased its use of renewables," Berzina says. "Germany is a great example, where there is a tremendous increase in renewable energy in the past decade."
That includes wind and solar power. Berzina says at the same time, the use of coal has increased in Germany because it has closed down its nuclear power plants.
She says Europe is also diversifying its suppliers of natural gas.
Kristine Berzina is a program officer in the Energy & Society program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, where she is responsible for shaping energy programming in Europe and contributing to GMF’s work in the United States.