The EU’s energy policy official said reliance on Russian oil has left Europe open to “blackmail”.
Kadri Simson, EU Energy Commissioner, appeared before a panel of the Oireachtas to answer questions amid the energy crisis sparked by war in Ukraine.
This week the EU forged a compromise that will see the body move to block most Russian oil imports.
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Ms Simson told the Oireachtas Energy and Climate Committee that the war in Ukraine “makes us reconsider Europe’s energy security”.
She added: “The war in Ukraine has changed things when it comes to energy.
“We are forced to face the fact that we are too dependent on imports from Russia and that it is a tool of blackmail.
“This is something we cannot tolerate.”
Discussing the step-change in EU energy policy, Ms Simson said: ‘Dobling even more will require commitment and effort across society.’
She also hailed Ireland’s potential as a source of offshore renewable energy.
Ms Simson said: “There are few places in the world that are better suited to offshore renewables than Ireland, sitting here on the edge of the blustery Atlantic gives you great potential to build more renewables .”
Some politicians have raised the concerns of climate activists over EU climate change policy, in particular the recent switch to liquefied natural gas (LNG) triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The EU is aiming for climate neutrality by 2050.
Sinn Fein climate spokesman Darren O’Rourke said: “Hopefully everyone is moving in the same direction. But of course, this poses challenges on the ability to supply on a large scale, at European level.
“How do you set priorities in this context and at a time when you are drawing on these resources to deliver LNG? »
Ms Simson replied: “In the long term, we will see that if our Member States achieve all that is proposed under Fit for 55, then by 2030 Europe will consume 30% less natural gas than in 2020.
“So yes, this extraordinary weather and this enormous pressure before this heating season, but in the longer term, we will decarbonize and we will also replace significant parts of our gas consumption with this clean gas.
Similar concerns were reported by Senator Alice Mary Higgins.
She said: “To simply say that in 2050 we are suddenly talking about net zero, but not having a genuinely strong emissions trajectory up to that is the real danger and in fact, really, Europe and Europe. EU in particular do not have 28 years given our disproportionate responsibility for driving climate change.
“That we should actually be, you know, ahead of the curve in terms of decarbonization, because our fair share will be exhausted before that.”
Ms Simson said that if member states had committed to climate neutrality by 2050, some would need “emergency investment to get rid of Russian imports” this year.
She added: “It is not easy to replace them with renewable energy in such a short term.
“It’s behind the flexibility that gives some landlocked countries a window where they can use their own stimulus funds to co-finance the pipelines, but they will be financed primarily against the market.”
Speaking on Thursday morning, Ms Simson said she and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan discussed the challenges facing Europe and proposals on how to develop renewable energy sources.
She said: “We have discussed how to develop and accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in Europe, we will negotiate this with our Member States at the Energy Council which will be held at the end of June, and I hope that we will find a common understanding. that investments in renewable energy are the best practice to get rid of Russian imports, because this is a dangerous dependency that we are facing at the moment.
“So a lot of work lies ahead of us, a tough heating season ahead of us, but we have a plan to secure supply for our consumers and how to deal with high energy prices.”
This was Ms Simson’s first visit to Ireland as EU Energy Commissioner.
Ireland is one of the member states that is not dependent on Russian energy, she said.
Ms Simson said the EU could only partially replace gas supply levels it received from Russia last year, but would aim to double its biogas production, which she said could be of interest Irish farmers.
“It will be a very big challenge to completely replace Russian gas,” she added.
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