EU plan to cut off Russian energy impractical, auditors warn
The EU’s plan to cut its dependence on Russian energy is unwieldy, impractical and significantly under-funded, the bloc’s Luxembourg-based budget watchdog warned in an opinion published on Tuesday.
The so-called REPowerEU strategy, unveiled in May following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sets out a series of goals including reducing the EU’s reliance on imports of the country’s fossil fuels and expanding wind and solar capacity.
However, the proposal is riddled with practical, political and financial obstacles, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) concluded.
The European Commission will need to secure an additional €200 billion in funding to meet the plan’s ambitious objectives, the ECA said, which include phasing out imports of Russian gas and oil within five years.
The EU’s funding for the switch will be available through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), part of the bloc’s €800 billion pandemic fund.
This approach could lead to divisions between national governments, as the RRF is implemented through measures proposed by individual countries, rather than decisions taken at an EU level, the auditors warned.
Splits between EU countries over the pace of the transition have been well documented. Energy ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday gave the green light to a proposal to voluntarily cut gas usage over the next months, with Hungary voting against the motion and a number of other countries expressing initial reservations.
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, last month urged EU member states not to backtrack on cutting fossil fuels, as Germany, Austria and the Netherlands said they would fire up coal plants after Russia moved to limit gas supplies.
Meeting the proposed commitments would in large part require countries to seek money elsewhere or “transfer funds from other (EU) policies”, the ECA said, effectively leaving the implementation of the plan in the hands of national governments.
“This poses a risk in terms of tackling upcoming challenges strategically, and may result in projects of strategic importance for the EU as a whole not being funded through REPowerEU,” the ECA said.
The Commission’s intention to assess the potential impact of the measures is welcome, the ECA said, but the indicators to be used will “only cover some” of the planned objectives.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine turned the spotlight onto our dependence on gas, oil and coal imports, and the EU absolutely needed to act and respond swiftly to increased energy security concerns,” said Ivana Maletić, the auditor responsible for the opinion.
“But our view is that REPowerEU, in its current shape, might fail to quickly identify and implement EU strategic projects with immediate and highest impact on the EU energy security and independence,” added Maletić.