Austria’s dependence on Russia’s gas

Julia Steiner – 
As the tension between the EU and Russia rises over the Ukraine conflict, so does the
concern about a possible disruption in gas supplies to Austria.
image credits: RAG Austria

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday 17th February. Today is the fifth day since the attack,
and the whole world looks to the east.
While the tension was rising, in the last months between the two countries, many countries
in Europe were concerned about a shutdown of gas from Russia. One of those countries
being Austria.

As Dr. Carola Millgramm, the head of the gas department of E-Control, says: “about 80 percent of the imported natural gas comes from Russia”. Therefore, Austria, and many other European countries, are depended on the Russian gas.

E-Control considers it unlikely that Russia will stop or even reduce the gas supplies. But even if a shutdown were to happen, private households would be the last to suffer from it. Moreover, Austria’s gas reserves will last at least until mid-March 2022. So even if Russia decided to turn the gas off, it had to be for a longer period of time to become a problem. Austria could also continue to purchase gas from Russia via the old Nord Stream I pipeline or get deliveries of liquefied natural gas, short LNG. Dr. Carola Millgramm says all those options are possible, “but you can’t completely replace Russian gas with it”.

On Tuesday, Moscow threaten to double the price of gas and the halt to the Nord Stream II Baltic gas pipeline in response to the sanctions by the EU. This would also have a massive impact in Vienna, where around half of the population uses gas. The mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig, seemed optimistic and promised Viennese an energy cost subsidy because of the rising gas and energy prices. “Wien Engergie (Vienna Energy) has set up an extensive storage facility for gas,” says the mayor in a press conference.

The gas storage facilities in Austria are much emptier than usual at this time. Usually the gas storages are being filled up during the summer months for winter, but because of the rising of the prices, only a few bought gas and storaged it.
The citizens of Austria would be the last people to notice a gas shutdown. As a study showed, the gas consumption in 2020 was divided by 36 percent industry, 29 percent power plants and only 19 percent households. Since the gas prices skyrocket, E-Control has received more phone calls and concerns from private household customers.

A gas shutdown seems far away, so seemed the war between Ukraine and Russia. Austria should now focus on finding other source for gas and energy and not make them dependent on one or two countries.