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Europe's energy infrastructure is proving incapable of dealing with a changing energy mix. But the EU has been making slow progress in improving the situation.
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A cold spell across Europe this winter pushed to the limits Russia's capacity to meet soaring market demand for gas and Ukraine's capacity to deliver it westward. At the beginning of February, Russia said Ukraine was taking out more Russian gas from EU-bound pipelines than allowed under their trans-shipment contract, while Ukraine said Gazprom, Russia's gas monopolist, was delivering less than the contractual amount of gas.
OMV, Austria's gas company, confirmed that Russian gas shipments to its hub outside Vienna were down by 30% and that it was tapping into strategic storage to make up the shortfall. Austria covers almost half its gas needs with Russian gas. Other countries, notably Germany and Italy, were also affected by the delivery shortages. Both Germany and Italy have activated contingency plans to reduce gas deliveries to industrial customers. Storage facilities are full, however, because of a winter that until this month was unusually mild.
Russia and Ukraine are in the midst of difficult talks on gas prices. Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, said last Saturday (11 February) that the situation had not become critical because the EU had learnt from the gas spat of 2009 and increased its storage, and because Russia and Ukraine were not working against each other.
The EU should strengthen energy markets, not bureaucracies
The European Union is being asked to introduce controversial rules allowing electricity grid operators to shut down consumers' refrigerators and washing machines remotely in the cause of more efficient use of energy.
Western fortunes are rising, slowly but surely.
Ministers to discuss proposed biofuel limits.
Proposal will temporarily delay the auctioning of emissions allowances in 2013-2015 until 2018-20.