European Union executive set to launch plans for EU to ditch Russian energy amid Kremlin war in Ukraine
BRUSSELS — The executive arm of the European Union decided on Wednesday to reinvigorate plans for the 27-nation bloc to ditch Russian energy amid the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, proposing a nearly 300 billion euro package ($315 billion) which includes more efficient use of fuels and faster deployment of renewable energy.
The European Commission’s investment initiative aims to help the 27 EU countries begin weaning themselves off Russian fossil fuels this year. The aim is to deprive Russia, the EU’s main supplier of oil, natural gas and coal, of tens of billions of revenue and to strengthen EU climate policies.
“We are taking our ambition to another level to ensure that we become independent of Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels when announcing the package, dubbed REPowerEU. .
With Russia’s war in Ukraine looming and European security shaken, the EU is racing to align its geopolitical and climate interests for decades to come. It comes amid troubling signs that have raised concerns about the energy supplies the EU relies on and have no quick replacements, including Russia cutting off member countries Poland and Bulgaria after refusing a request for payment of natural gas in rubles.
The bloc’s rush to ditch Russian energy stems from a combination of voluntary and mandatory actions. Both reflect the political unease of helping fund Russia’s military campaign in a country neighboring the EU and wanting to join the bloc.
An EU ban on coal from Russia is due to start in August, and the bloc has pledged to try to cut demand for Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of the year. Meanwhile, a proposed EU oil embargo has hit a roadblock from Hungary and other landlocked countries that are worried about the cost of switching to alternative sources.
In a bid to swing Hungary behind the oil phase-out, the REPowerEU package provides oil investment funding of around €2 billion for member countries heavily dependent on Russian oil.
Energy saving and renewables form the cornerstones of the package, which would be funded primarily through an economic stimulus package put in place to help member countries weather the slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Von der Leyen said the prize includes around 72 billion euros for grants and 225 billion euros for loans. There is a push to fund energy efficiency and renewables.
The European Commission has also proposed ways to streamline approval processes in EU countries for renewable energy projects, which can take up to a decade to go through the red tape. The commission said approval times should drop to a year or less.
It proposed a specific plan on solar energy, aiming to double photovoltaic capacity by 2025. The commission proposed a progressive obligation to install solar panels on new buildings.
The European Commission’s recommendations on short-term national actions to reduce Russian energy demand coincide with ongoing deliberations in the bloc since last year on setting more ambitious European energy efficiency targets. and renewable energies for 2030.
These targets are part of the bloc’s commitments to a 55% reduction in greenhouse gases by the end of the decade compared to 1990 emissions and climate neutrality by 2050.
In this context, the committee urged European lawmakers in the European Parliament and national governments to deepen their own proposals for 2030 energy saving and renewable energy targets.