Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the whole of Europe sees energy security as a key issue. Russia supplies around 34% of Europe’s gas, making the short and long-term security of this supply now in doubt, with several countries now encouraged to reduce their reliance on Russian gas.

Nevertheless, natural gas still plays a fundamental role in the continent’s strategy to wind down coal in the electricity supply and advance in the direction of renewables, as a transitional fuel with lower investment costs, lower flexibility, and lower emissions in comparison to other fossil fuels. Since Russia started to increase and intensify its aggression toward Ukraine this year, Denmark’s Aarhus University scientists have been working to calculate how the withdrawal of gas supplied by Russia will affect the European energy mix and energy transition plans up to 2050.

Gorm Bruun, Associate Professor at Aarhus University, said that with the phasing out of Russian gas, Europe won’t have enough gas for the transition phase. “This means that we have to choose between investing in the immediate installation of large amounts of wind and solar energy or falling back on the other options, including coal.”

Climate scenarios

There are two scenarios identified based on COemissions budgets that would correspond to a 1.5C and a 2C temperature increase.

In the first scenario, there is a fast deployment of renewable energy, and electrification of the heating sector will decrease demand for natural gas to below the level of what can be provided, even if 34% less gas is available.

In the meantime, in the second scenario, the correspondent for 2C temperature increase, the demand for gas decreases more slowly and the demand would continue above the existing supply up until 2045. This means that parts of Europe will continue to rely on coal electricity, and the price uncertainty would remain. This research calculates that electricity prices in 2025 will be €15/MWh higher, in a scenario where the supply of gas is limited.

“A reduction in Europe’s total gas supply could help accelerate the upscaling of renewable energy sources, provided countries uphold their climate ambitions,” said Ebbe Gøtske, researcher at Aarhus University. “If not, we simply risk that other fossil fuels will replace gas in the interim period towards full decarbonization,”

There is no secret regarding the preferred scenario, however, Gøtske goes on to warn that the 1.5C situation will need action on an enormous scale from all European countries. “This requires a massive roll-out of renewable energy sources in the form of solar and wind. We need to install approximately 400 GW per year in the years 2025-35, and this will be a huge challenge for European politicians,” he said.

The group concluded its research with the statement: “a transition corresponding to the 1.5C scenario not only decreases the chances of suffering the worst impacts of climate change by reducing direct CO2 emissions, but it also reduces the potential impact of upstream emissions from gas, and it may allow Europeans to experience the freedom of energy independence sooner rather than later.”


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