KCommission President Ursula von der Leyen is now selling the “Green Deal” primarily as a program against dependence on Russian gas and oil. The EU is to invest 210 billion euros by 2027 in order to become independent from Russia. Most of this is intended for the expansion of renewable energies and energy efficiency. However, 12 billion euros are to flow into new infrastructure for the supply of non-Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG), gas and oil. Especially in the short term, LNG plays a major role in decoupling from Russia. This year alone, the EU wants to replace 50 billion cubic meters of Russian gas with non-Russian LNG.
As absurd as that may seem, the EU has no other choice, says Climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) is already working on it at full speed. Germany is currently investing 2.5 billion euros in four floating LNG terminals. The first should deliver by the end of the year. In addition, several permanent terminals are to be built in the next few years.
Climate and environmentalists are alarmed. According to a study by the “Global Energy Monitor”, 26 new LNG terminals, extensions to existing terminals and floating LNG platforms are currently being planned in the EU. 22 of them came from the period after the outbreak of the Ukraine war. At a cost of 6 billion euros, the import capacities will increase by at least 152 billion cubic meters of gas – 60 billion of them in Germany alone, the non-governmental organization calculates. That alone corresponds to imports from Russia last year.
Huge increase in capacity
So far there are 21 terminals for the import of LNG in the EU. Their capacity is 158 billion cubic meters. With the planned terminals, the total capacity would almost double. However, the existing LNG terminals are very unevenly distributed. A third is on the Iberian Peninsula, and from there there is only one pipeline connection to the rest of Europe, which is mostly busy.
“The investments planned due to concerns about short-term security of supply are clearly oversized,” warns Matthias Buck from the Berlin think tank Agora Energiewende. “The EU must coordinate better to avoid investment ruins at the expense of taxpayers.” There is a real “hype” about the construction of new terminals, says Ana Maria Jaller-Makarewicz from the American think tank Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis: “Everyone just wants to build, build, build.” Even the existing platforms would only be closed on average 70 percent used. In Spain it is more like 50 percent. The country is a warning example of the consequences of oversized expansion.
Prevent unnecessary expansion
“I don’t think we will see an expansion of this magnitude,” says economist Georg Zachmann from the Brussels think tank Bruegel. Many projects are early ideas and it is likely that some of the floating terminals will ‘move on’ after the completion of fixed assets. The main problem is the timing. The EU could currently use 100 billion cubic meters of additional import capacity, since that corresponds to current Russian imports. But since LNG is expensive and the EU has to phase out gas use quickly for climate reasons, the need for imports will steadily decrease, first in electricity supply and industry, and then somewhat more slowly in households.