The steep rise in European gas prices has been driven by a combination of a strong recovery in demand and tighter-than-expected supply, as well as several weather-related factors, which include a particularly cold and long heating season in Europe last winter and lower-than-usual availability of wind energy in recent weeks. This is the conclusion of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
“Recent increases in global natural gas prices are the result of multiple factors and it is inaccurate and misleading to lay the responsibility at the door of the clean energy transition,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.
Going forward, the European gas market could well face further stress tests from unplanned outages and sharp cold spells, especially if they occur late in the winter. Gas storage levels in Europe are well below their five-year average but not markedly below their previous five-year lows, which were reached in 2017.
Based on the available information, Russia is fulfilling its long-term contracts with European counterparts – but its exports to Europe are down from their 2019 level. The IEA believes that Russia could do more to increase gas availability to Europe and ensure storage is filled to adequate levels in preparation for the coming winter heating season. This is also an opportunity for Russia to underscore its credentials as a reliable supplier to the European market.
“Today’s situation is a reminder to governments, especially as we seek to accelerate clean energy transitions, of the importance of secure and affordable energy supplies – particularly for the most vulnerable people in our societies,” Dr Birol said. “Well-managed clean energy transitions are a solution to the issues that we are seeing in gas and electricity markets today – not the cause of them.”
The links between electricity and gas markets are not going to go away anytime soon. Gas remains an important tool for balancing electricity markets in many regions today. As clean energy transitions advance on a path towards net-zero emissions, global gas demand will start to decline, but it will remain an important component of electricity security. This is especially the case in countries with large seasonal variations in electricity demand.