Energy prices have hit new highs across Europe this week after Russia announced that gas flows to Europe would not resume until sanctions are lifted.
Much of the continent is expected to face a difficult winter with fears of shortages and possible blackouts in the coming months.
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Europe is highly dependent on gas for generating electricity, transport and heating. In 2021, one-third (34 percent) of Europe’s energy came from burning gas.
Belarus is the most gas-dependent country in Europe with 62 percent of its energy coming from gas, followed by Russia (54 percent), Italy (42 percent), the United Kingdom (40 percent) and Hungary (39 percent).
In 2021, two-thirds (76 percent) of Europe’s energy was made by burning fossil fuels – gas (34 percent), oil (31 percent) and coal (11 percent).
Renewable energy, including hydropower, solar, wind and biofuels, accounted for 14 percent, with nuclear making up the remaining 10 percent. Russia’s gas supply squeeze has forced countries to accelerate their search for alternatives. Germany announced that it would temporarily halt the phasing out of two nuclear power plants in an effort to shore up energy security.
Europe’s gas consumption
Europe is the largest importer of natural gas in the world. In 2021, Russia, Germany, the UK, Italy and France consumed three-quarters of the continent’s 10,073 terrawatt hours (TWh) of energy from gas.
Several European Union nations have announced multibillion-dollar emergency measures to combat skyrocketing energy prices in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
On Sunday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a $65bn plan to help people and businesses cope with soaring prices.
Incoming UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is also planning to freeze household energy bills at the current level for this winter and next, paid for by government-backed loans to energy suppliers.
In Italy, the government recently approved a $17bn aid package to help shield firms and families from galloping energy costs and rising consumer prices.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron said the EU needs to step up plans for renewable energy products and to reform its electricity market.
Finland and Sweden also announced plans to offer billions of dollars in liquidity guarantees to energy companies.
Western sanctions against Russia
Since February 22, more than 9,119 new sanctions have been imposed on Russia, making it the most sanctioned country in the world. At least 46 countries or territories, including all 27 EU nations, have imposed sanctions on Russia, or pledged to adopt a combination of US and EU sanctions.
Moscow has blamed sanctions imposed by the West for impeding routine maintenance on its Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline which is the single biggest gas pipeline between Russia and western Europe. EU officials have accused Russia of using energy as a weapon.