European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the bloc needs to be prepared for a complete cut-off of Russian gas supply amid political stand-off with Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

Ursula von der Leyen has said a dozen members have already been hit by reductions or full cuts in gas supplies.
Ursula von der Leyen has said a dozen members have already been hit by reductions or full cuts in gas supplies. (AP)

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has said that the 27-nation European Union needs to make emergency plans to prepare for a complete cut-off of Russian gas in the wake of the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine.

The head of the EU's executive branch said on Wednesday that the bloc needed to be ready for shock disruptions coming from Moscow.

“We also need to prepare now for further disruption of gas supply and even a complete cut-off of Russian gas supply,” von der Leyen told the EU legislature in Strasbourg, France. 

She said a dozen members have already been hit by reductions or full cuts in gas supplies as the political stand-off with Moscow over the Ukraine intervention intensifies. 

“It is obvious: Putin continues to use energy as a weapon. This is why the Commission is working on a European emergency plan,” she said. 

“We need to make sure that in case of full disruption, the gas flows towards where it is most needed. We have to provide for European solidarity.”

READ MORE: The EU’s ban on Russian oil, explained

Transition toward renewables

European Union countries already agreed last month that all natural gas storage in the 27-nation bloc should be topped up to at least 80 percent capacity for next winter to avoid shortages during the cold season. 

The new regulation also says underground gas storage on EU soil will need to be filled to 90 percent capacity before the 2023-24 winter.

The conflict in Ukraine has prompted the 27-nation bloc to rethink its energy policies and sever ties with Russian fossil fuels. Member countries have agreed to ban 90 percent of Russian oil by year-end in addition to a ban on imports of Russian coal that will start in August.

The EU has not included gas – a fuel used to power factories and generate electricity – in its own sanctions for fear of seriously harming the European economy.

Before the conflict in Ukraine, it relied on Russia for 25 percent of its oil and 40 percent of its natural gas. To slash its use of Russian energy, the European Commission has been diversifying suppliers.

“And our efforts are already making a big difference," von der Leyen said. “Since March, global LNG exports to Europe have risen by 75 percent compared to 2021. LNG exports from the US to Europe have nearly tripled."

In the meantime, the average monthly import of Russian pipeline gas is declining by 33 percent compared with last year, von der Leyen said as she called for a speedy transition toward renewable sources of energy.

“Renewables are home-grown. They give us independence from Russian fossil fuels. They are more cost-efficient. And they are cleaner."

The EU Council agreed last month to raise the share of renewables in the bloc’s energy mix to at least 40 percent by 2030 – up from the previous target of 32 percent. In addition, a 9 percent energy consumption reduction target for 2030 will become binding on all EU member states for the first time.

READ MORE: Has Russia really weaponised natural gas?

Source: AP