(Montel) Europe should move "immediately" to cut gas demand across the region faced with Russia’s threat to halt supplies, two French energy experts have warned
"We have to be ready for [Vladimir] Putin to turn off the tap, and if that happens it will happen in the next fortnight," French renewable energy expert, Correntin Sivy, told Montel, referring to the Russian president.
Russia could forgo its “several hundred million dollars a day windfall” of gas and oil revenues to Europe, in retaliation for western sanctions, he said.
"The country has reserves and could turn more to Asian countries to sell its energy," Sivy said.
The EU depends on Russia for 40% of its natural gas and nearly 30% of its oil imports.
Russia’s threats to halt gas supplies to Europe were "not a bluff", according to Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, director of the Jacques-Delors Institute's Energy Centre.
"It would be a very bad economic calculation, but it was also a very bad economic calculation on the part of Vladimir Putin to send those troops to Ukraine," he said.
Both experts reckoned Europe could cope without Russian gas using demand side measures. It was also a necessary “collective” choice in “solidarity” with Ukraine, they said.
The EU had to encourage people to turn down gas heating, cut the length and speed of car journeys and “massively” install heat pumps, which consume less energy, as well as insulate buildings.
The continent should also "ration" energy for non-essential industries and accelerate the production of renewable energy, which was far cheaper than gas, they said.
France could wean itself off Russian gas supplies, which accounted for 17% of the total, by next winter, the experts reckoned.
But it would be “painful” for some Eastern European countries, which imported up to 100% of their gas from Russian, or Germany, which gets over 40%.
"That is the price of stopping Putin. If we don't stop funding the war, how far will he go?" said Pellerin-Carlin.
The European Commission said on Tuesday it wanted to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of the year and to zero by 2030.
Talks in Versailles about how to reach this goal would be “difficult” as there was no agreement among EU countries, French secretary of state for European affairs, Clement Beaune, said on Thursday
Europe had to act “together” to have a “significant” impact on Russia, he told France Inter radio. “We have to exit Russian gas and we need a date and to start this year. By buying Russian gas we are financing Vladimir Putin’s war.”