BRUSSELS, Belgium: After President Vladimir Putin warned that Russian gas and oil sent to Europe could be reduced further and even stop, the European Union, this week, urged member states to cut gas usage by 15 percent until March.
After a 10-day halt for annual maintenance, deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which accounts for more than one-third of Russian gas exports to the EU, are scheduled to resume.
Even before the maintenance, supplies via the route had been reduced due to sanctions imposed on Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine.
Europe's efforts to refill gas storage before winter have, therefore, been disrupted, increasing the risk of rationing and further stifling economic growth.
The European Commission set a voluntary target for all EU states to cut gas use by 15 percent from August to March, compared with the average figure during the same period from 2016-2021.
"Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And, therefore, in any event, whether it is a partial, major cut-off of Russian gas or a total cut-off of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready," said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as quoted by Reuters.
The move is to be discussed prior to the expected approval by ministers on 26th July, and will need the backing of EU member states.
"We believe that a full disruption is likely. If we wait, it will be more expensive and it will mean us dancing to Russia's tune," an EU official said, according to Reuters.
Two Russian sources said gas supplies via Nord Stream 1 were expected to restart, but below the daily capacity of 160 million cubic metres.
In June, Russian state-controlled Gazprom cut gas exports via Nord Stream 1 to 40 percent capacity, blaming delays on the return of a turbine serviced in Canada by Siemens Energy.
Since the start of the Ukraine war, gas prices have surged, reaching over €160 per megawatt hour this week, 360 percent more than one year ago.
Meanwhile, Gazprom has said that Russian gas supplies heading to China hit a new daily record.
In response, European nations have been looking for alternative gas supplies, including from suppliers linked to Europe by pipeline, such as Algeria, as well as by building or expanding more liquefied natural gas terminals to receive shipments from countries, such as the U.S.