The European Union has announced a fundamental shake-up of its energy policy, designed to reduce dependency on Russia and boost green energy by investing hundreds of billions of euros.
At present, the 27 EU countries rely on Russia for more than a quarter of all their coal, oil and particularly gas, but they are committed to reducing that dramatically by the end of this year.
Launching the initiative on Wednesday, EU executive vice president Frans Timmermans stressed the urgency of Europe weaning itself off its reliance on Russian energy, while at the same time protecting the European economy from harm.
"It is more urgent than ever that Europe becomes the master of its own destiny, increases its resilience and sovereignty and continues to lead the world in facing the climate crisis," Timmermans told a news conference in Brussels.
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He said the EU's "super charged" green deal would work on three levels: cutting the level of energy consumption, diversifying supplies by importing more liquefied natural gas and pipeline gas from non-Russian sources, and massively investing in green energy production to make the zone energy independent by 2027.
Timmermans said the European Commission plans to cut its gas consumption by 15.5 billion cubic meters – two thirds of that by the end of this year. He also announced the EU would institute a collective energy purchasing mechanism to buy energy and distribute it fairly among member states.
At the same time, the EU announced a major drive to increase the amount of energy which it generates from renewable sources, including wind farms, solar and hydrogen generation which, Timmermans said, would also make a substantial contribution to combating climate change.
Energy experts have welcomed the renewed sense of urgency in Brussels and are optimistic that it will considerably reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
"It must happen now or never because we are facing several crises," said Fawaz al Bitar, director general of renewable energy federation Edora.
"We face a climate change crisis, an energy independence crisis, an environmental crisis and the answer to all these crises is clearly renewable energy sources," he said. "We really need now from the European Commission a strategy to really accelerate the energy transition."
Pressed on what individuals could do to reduce their energy consumption, he advised simple measures like riding a bicycle rather than taking the car or reducing the heating during the winter and air conditioning during hot weather.