Brussels, March 8 – The European Commission’s new plan to pivot the EU’s energy supply away from Russian gas and tackle high and volatile energy prices clearly recognise the urgency of rolling out renewable energy and heating and insulating buildings, but risk further locking in the EU into dependence on international gas markets, according to Global Witness.

The Commission’s communication contains much-needed emphasis on accelerating the energy transition away from fossil gas by boosting the deployment of renewable energy, while ramping up the installation of heat pumps and insulation of buildings.

However, its proposal to rely on more LNG and hydrogen imports raises the prospect of building more LNG terminals and pipelines. This in turn would lock the EU into further dependence on expensive and climate-wrecking gas, risking the EU’s climate plans and its ability to protect citizens from high energy bills.

The EU’s ability to import LNG is not currently curbed by its lack of infrastructure, but by the lack of global supply. New infrastructure to import gas would only come online after 2025, by which point the EU could have significantly cut gas demand through energy savings and renewables. It also carries the high risk of carbon lock-in.

Meanwhile, proposals to accelerate renewable hydrogen infrastructure and deployment would require quantities of renewable electricity which are unlikely to materialise. There is a serious risk that the volume required would not be delivered and therefore do little to reduce our reliance on imported gas.

Tara Connolly, senior gas campaigner at Global Witness said:

On renovation and renewables, the message is clear – EU capitals must deploy an unprecedented rollout of renewable energy capacity, heat pumps and insulation before next winter and beyond. This could be the beginnings of the radical change the EU urgently needs to end our dependence on fossil gas for good. However, proposals to rely on more imported LNG and far-fetched hydrogen plans that fail to deliver would seriously undermine the EU Commission’s plans, and further lock the EU into further dependence on expensive, climate-wrecking fossil gas.

Earlier today, Global Witness called for sanctions on the Russian fossil fuel industry.

Mike Davis, CEO of Global Witness, said:

“Cutting off the flow of Russian fossil fuels into Europe will no doubt come at a cost, but it is one we must be willing to pay if we are to truly stand against war. It is a tiny cost compared to that paid in Ukrainian lives. In parallel with introducing sanctions a huge package of support must be deployed to ensure that they do not deepen Europe’s ongoing energy poverty crisis and that no one has to choose between heating and eating. The need for everyone to be able to afford to heat their home must come before worries about economic growth.

“Ultimately the most effective way to cut off the funds flowing to Putin’s war chest is to end Europe’s dependence on all fossil fuels as fast as possible. Governments should put home insulation and the installation of renewable energy on a war footing to be delivered as fast as possible – this is the home front in support of the battle in Ukraine.

“An embargo must not be used as a justification for new fossil fuel projects – whether in Europe or in the US where the self-serving fossil fuel industry has already shamelessly jumped on this crisis to claim that they can save Europe from its reliance on Russia. But fossil fuel production and exports simply cannot increase fast enough to meet Europe’s demand in the short term, and in the long term the future for Europe will be a future beyond gas.”