Secure Energy Supply

March 10, 2022

How Russian natural gas could be replaced by other, especially renewable, energy sources in Germany as well as in the entire European Union (EU) is discussed in the ad hoc statement published today by the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina "How Russian natural gas can be replaced in the German and European energy supply". FHI Director Prof. Dr. Robert Schlögl commented on this in interviews as Vice President of the Leopoldina.

This could be achieved, among other things, through the procurement of liquefied gas, the creation of a robust reserve of energy carriers and the expansion of the hydrogen infrastructure. The Leopoldina ad hoc paper concludes that even a short-term supply freeze of Russian gas would be manageable for the German economy. The immediate implementation of a package of measures could avoid bottlenecks and cushion their economic and social impact.

Natural gas accounts for more than 25 percent of primary energy consumption in Germany and is mainly used for industrial processes and by private households. The main use of natural gas is in heat generation, less so in the electricity system. Slightly more than half of the natural gas consumed in Germany is imported from Russia. The rest is sourced mainly from Norway and the Netherlands. Currently, the storage facilities for natural gas reserves in Germany are 27 percent full.

In order to be prepared for a possible stop of Russian natural gas supplies to the EU, immediate measures, a medium-term diversification of energy supply and an embedding of these measures in a transformation path towards a sustainable energy supply are necessary.

As short-term measures (coming weeks and months), the ad hoc opinion discusses, for example, liquefied natural gas imports, savings on natural gas and filling gas storage facilities as a buffer for the winter. In order to reduce natural gas demand, more coal-fired power generation could also be used. In the short term, this leads to higher costs for the companies covered by European emissions trading. At the same time, financial burdens on citizens with low and medium incomes should be cushioned socially and companies should be relieved of energy taxes. In the medium term (within one year), Germany needs a robust reserve of energy sources, an expansion of liquefied gas capacities and an upgrade of the gas grid. In the long term (two to ten years), the expansion of the infrastructure for handling and importing hydrogen is recommended, as well as the expansion of renewable energies.

Since energy supply is part of the state's services of general interest, the options for the future design of the energy supply system range from a completely state-run energy supply to a purely private-sector energy supply under state regulation and supervision. According to the authors, care must be taken to avoid micromanagement. Central to this is the transmission infrastructure, which consists of energy ports, large-scale storage facilities and the transmission networks ("energy highways"). It could be privately managed as before, but should then be subject to state regulation in terms of structure and use. The provision, conversion, distribution and use of energy could also continue to be organised privately within a clear and stable state framework.

It is important for the authors not to question the planned coal phase-out in 2030. It helps to become independent of Russian coal imports, which account for 50 percent of coal imports to Germany. Existing effective mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, first and foremost emissions trading and its further development within the framework of the EU Green Deal, must not be weakened.

The current situation makes it necessary to press ahead with the restructuring of the energy system even more vigorously than before. The political, legal and economic framework conditions for the actors of the future energy system should be European. Those EU member states whose energy supply is currently particularly dependent on Russia should lead the way. Prof. Dr. Schlögl commented on this today in interviews on Phoenix TV and mdr Radio Kultur.

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