EU energy security and the war in Ukraine: From sprint to marathon

Briefing 21-02-2023

The European Union acted decisively and unanimously in condemning the brutal war and its immense human cost, imposing sanctions on Russia and supporting Ukraine. Russia's invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 also triggered concern over the EU's energy security. Throughout 2022, Europe showed determination to fill gas storage facilities and find additional gas supplies elsewhere. During the winter of 2022/2023, the EU has fared better than initially feared. Gas demand has been lower than in previous years thanks to EU efforts to save energy, and a major increase in shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) helped buffer the reduction of supplies from Russia. But this should not leave any room for complacency. Part of the EU's success is down to favourable circumstances such as warmer than usual weather in the winter of 2022/2023 and lower LNG demand in China as a consequence of COVID-related restrictions, and it is not clear yet how enduring the improvements in energy efficiency will be. The prospects for next winter are highly uncertain, given the inherent difficulty in predicting metereological conditions or the state of the global economy, as well as the possibility of a complete interruption of fossil fuel supplies from Russia, which could hamper the ability of storage sites to fill over the summer period. While actions taken so far have managed to buffer the immediate impact of the war, the harder reality is that the EU remains dependent on outside suppliers for its energy security. In 2023, the EU will have to shift its focus from crisis response mode to a long-term vision of how it wants to manage its energy security – from sprint to marathon. This includes the supply of raw materials, renewables manufacturing, increased interconnections, and the future of joint energy purchasing. High inflation and the growing cost of capital could make it harder for new renewable investments to get off the ground, and the EU remains far from meeting some of its more ambitious goals in this respect.