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12 Feb, 2024 16:42

EU state’s dependence on Russian gas soars to 98% – energy minister

Austria has actually increased imports from the sanctioned country due to a lack of affordable alternatives
EU state’s dependence on Russian gas soars to 98% – energy minister

The share of Austria’s gas imports from Russia has continued to grow, hitting a record high of 98% in December, Austrian Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler has said. The share was 76% the month before, according to the minister. 

While most EU countries slashed imports of Russian gas over the Ukraine conflict, Austria, which covers about 80% of its domestic consumption with fuel from the sanction-hit country, actually ramped up purchases.

Vienna has been seeking to end its decades-long dependency on affordable Russian gas since the start of the Ukraine conflict. However, it has failed to find alternative providers as imports from other countries have proven to be much more expensive.

“The market and the energy companies that are part of it are not fulfilling their responsibility to reduce the dependency on Russian gas sufficiently. The diversification of our gas imports is progressing far too slowly,” the minister, who represents the Green party, told reporters in Vienna on Monday.

Gewessler said her ministry was tasking economic think-tank Wifo with producing a study by the summer on the economic impact that ending Austrian energy giant OMV’s contract with Russia’s Gazprom would have. “We must prepare to exit OMV’s long-term contracts,” she stressed.

According to Reuters, the Energy Ministry also has plans to make it compulsory for companies selling gas in Austria to take concrete steps to reduce the proportion of Russian gas in their mix.

OMV, which covers around 30% of Austria’s gas needs, was among the first to agree to pay for Russian gas in rubles under the new settlement mechanism that Moscow introduced for the ‘unfriendly countries’ that imposed sanctions on Russia. The head of the company, Alfred Stern, said at the time that abandoning Russian gas was impossible for Austria and would have dire consequences for its economy and energy security.

He indicated that OMV would adhere to its long-term contract with Gazprom and did not plan to exit the agreement anytime soon. The contract with the Russian gas giant was signed in 2018 and runs until 2040.

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