Power Plays

The Best Energy Policy? Use Less

Russia won't leave us out in the cold.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Given the political crisis, there are concerns that Russia will restrict energy supplies to Germany this winter. A well-designed energy policy could raise efficiency and reduce the country’s dependence on imports from Russia.

  • Facts


    • Germany draws a third of its gas from Russia and many people are anxious about possible shortages this winter if Russia retaliates in reaction to sanctions.
    • The European Union spends €500 billion a year importing oil, coal and gas but it would also be possible to import more liquid gas.
    • Germany has yet to implement the European Union’s energy directive.
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People are starting to get anxious about the coming winter. They’re entertaining Doomsday scenarios of Siberian temperatures, folks freezing in their homes and industries grinding to a halt.

Everyone’s worried about Russia leaving Europe out in the cold, as a result of the political tensions arising from the Russia-Ukraine conflict. But that simply isn’t likely to happen for several reasons, from President Vladimir Putin’s coffers, to the possibility of raising our own energy efficiency.

True, it’s no easy feat to understand what’s going on in Vladimir Putin’s mind. The Russian president may be unpredictable, but he still wants to provide uninterrupted supplies to Europe, because he would be lost without this oil and gas income. The Russian economy has had massive problems for a while now and if the energy business income fell away too, the country would be in serious trouble.

There are many sound reasons, apart from fear, to reduce our dependence on Russian gas in Europe. It makes no sense for countries in the European Union to spend €500 billion each year importing oil, coal and gas, in the first place, and especially since much of it comes from countries that are not particularly democratic or transparent.

There are many sound reasons, apart from fear, to reduce our dependence on Russian gas in Europe.

Diversification of our energy sources, especially with natural gas, is the order of the day. This is something the European Union recognizes and supports, albeit with limited success.

It will take a while before pipelines can bring gas from Central Asia to Europe without going via Russia. In the meantime, liquid gas could be brought to Europe by tanker.

Over the past few years, huge facilities have sprung up for the production of liquid gas. Now that the United States is no longer buying as much since ramping up its domestic gas production, there are plenty of opportunities to supply Europe.

In the end it would be better to cut how much gas we use. It’s not sorcery. If we had a policy for energy efficiency that was well designed, consistent and long term, we could reduce our gas, oil and coal usage significantly, without burdening consumers or the economy. A recent study showed that with policies to increase energy efficiency, Germany could halve its dependence on Russian gas within a few years.

Of course, the government could demonstrate its determination by implementing the European Union’s energy efficiency directive, which would further reduce the danger of ever having to ration gas supplies.

This story was translated by Allison Williams. To contact the author: stratmann@handesblatt.com

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