After the energy crisis in the previous years, the EU states have taken measures to secure their oil and gas needs before the start of the cold season.
The European Union states have prepared intensively for winter and have made substantial stocks of oil and natural gas in the event of a long cold season with very low temperatures. After the European energy crisis of 2022 and 2023, that coincided with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the beginning of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation, which triggered higher electricity and natural gas tariffs on the market and much more expensive bills for the population, the EU countries have taken measures to avoid such scenario from repeating itself.
According to a recent Reuters report, commercial crude inventories of EU countries were 12 million barrels above the prior ten-year seasonal average in mid-November. Also, gas storage has been at record seasonal levels continuously since the end of the first quarter of 2023 following sharp falls in industrial gas consumption. In countries like Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Poland, gas consumption was down by 13% in the first nine months of 2023 compared with the pre-invasion ten-year seasonal average for 2012-2021. According to the Reuters report, inflation-adjusted prices have averaged 48 euros per megawatt hour in November, down from 223 euros at the height of the crisis in August 2022. They are, however, higher compared with 23 euros per megawatt hour in the five years between 2015 and 2019. While prices are still high, they are no longer at crisis levels, and could go down some more in 2024.
A good example of energy sources diversification has been provided by the Paris administration. Among the European states least dependent on Russian gas, France has strengthened its nuclear energy sector, its liquefied gas imports from the United States and its imports of natural gas from Norway, and has developed its green energy sector. Paris has recently announced it reached its goal of energy independence from Moscow.
As far as Romania is concerned, the Bucharest government has said that there will be no problems in the natural gas supply under normal winter conditions. The Romanian Energy Minister, Sebastian Burduja, said that, according to statistics from Brussels, Romania is the country with the most important gas production in Europe, especially given the Neptun Deep project, which will start in 2027 and which involves the exploitation of a vast deposit of oil and natural gas discovered in its exclusive economic zone of the Black Sea. At the same time, minister Burduja specified that Romania ranks first in the EU in terms of demand coverage rate from local production sources. As regards the gas stocks, he gave assurances that all gas storage facilities are full. (EE)