Some governments are looking to cushion the blow for customers and businesses, either through direct assistance, or by limiting prices for consumers and then paying energy providers the difference. But with inflation in many countries well above target and budget deficits already large because of emergency spending during the Covid-19 pandemic, the scope for cushioning the impact is more limited than in early 2020. Rising inflation has triggered increases in short-term interest rates in many countries, slowing down economic growth.
Europeans have rushed to increase gas imports from alternative producers such as Algeria, Norway and Azerbaijan. Several countries have resumed or expanded the use of coal for power generation, and some are extending the lives of nuclear plants slated for de-commissioning. EU members have also introduced gas storage obligations, and agreed on voluntary targets to cut gas and electricity demand by 15% this winter through efficiency measures, greater use of renewables, and support for efficiency improvements.
To ensure adequate oil supplies, the IEA and its members responded with the two largest ever releases of emergency oil stocks. With two decisions – on 1 March 2022 and 1 April – the IEA coordinated the release of some 182 million barrels of emergency oil from public stocks or obligated stocks held by industry. Some IEA member countries independently released additional public stocks, resulting in a total of over 240 million barrels being released between March and November 2022.
The IEA has also published action plans to cut oil use with immediate impact, as well as plans for how Europe can reduce its reliance on Russian gas and how common citizens can reduce their energy consumption.
The invasion has sparked a reappraisal of energy policies and priorities, calling into question the viability of decades of infrastructure and investment decisions, and profoundly reorientating international energy trade. Gas had been expected to play a key role in many countries as a lower-emitting “bridge” between dirtier fossil fuels and renewable energies. But today’s crisis has called into question natural gas’ reliability.
The current crisis could accelerate the rollout of cleaner, sustainable renewable energy such as wind and solar, just as the 1970s oil shocks spurred major advances in energy efficiency, as well as in nuclear, solar and wind power. The crisis has also underscored the importance of investing in robust gas and power network infrastructure to better integrate regional markets. The EU’s RePowerEU, presented in May 2022 and the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August 2022, both contain major initiatives to develop energy efficiency and promote renewable energies.
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