“Not at the end of its troubles”, Europe risks running out of gas for the winter of 2023-24, alerted Thursday the International Energy Agency (IEA), which calls on governments to “act immediately” in particular to reduce demand. Some 30 billion cubic meters of gas could well be missing next year, in the event of a complete cessation of deliveries from Russia but also because of the economic rebound of China which would come to absorb a large part of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) , estimates in its calculations the IEA, created by the OECD in 1974 to advise countries on energy matters.
European reserves would then only be 65% full at the start of winter 2023-2024, compared to 95% today, its director Fatih Birol told a few journalists during an online press conference. “The ‘cushion’ provided by current reserve levels, together with the recent decline in gas prices and abnormally warm temperatures, should not lead to overly optimistic conclusions about the future,” warns the IEA, which points out that in the summer of 2023 the global geopolitical and economic conditions for sourcing and filling reserves should have changed significantly compared to 2022.
Beware of “overconfidence”
The filling of reserves this summer benefited from “key factors which may well not spread in 2023”. Starting with the position of Russia, whose gas pipelines delivered almost normal quantities this year in the first half of the year, before deliveries slowed down, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine: ultimately, the country should have supplied some 60 billion of m3 to the European Union. Which will be “highly unlikely” in 2023, notes the IEA, relevant that Russian deliveries could even stop completely.
In addition, China’s lower LNG needs this year have facilitated European purchases. Global LNG production must increase, but only by 20 billion m3, and if Chinese imports meet their 2021 level in 2023, they would absorb most of this growth, estimates this analysis entitled “Never too early to prepare the winter 2023-24”.
With prices easing this fall and demand limited by the mild weather, “there is a risk of overconfidence creeping into the subject of gas supplies to Europe. However, we are not in no case at the end of our sentences, ”commented Fatih Birol.
Governments must therefore “take immediate measures to accelerate in energy efficiency, the deployment of renewable energies, heat pumps, and any other means of structurally reducing the demand for gas”, underlines the economist, who must remember several representatives of European governments on Friday, to sound “the alarm bell for next winter”.
The Agency plans to publish “a roadmap” shortly, proposes a list of these concrete actions which “would make it possible to have reserves filled to 95% at the start of the 2023-24 heating season and to structurally reduce the consumption of winter gas pendant”.