Natural gas in national Long-Term Strategies of EU Member States

This report looks at decarbonisation pathways through the lens of natural gas and its role in the low-carbon transition.

National long-term strategies (LTS), as long-term energy policy documents submitted by EU Member States to the European Commission, give an insight into the envisioned decarbonisation pathways of particular countries. This report looks at these pathways through the lens of natural gas and its role in the low-carbon transition. The analysis encompasses 22 of 27 EU Member States and is limited to the natural gas policies outlined in the LTSs only. An adjustment of the EU energy policy following the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been addressed to some extent since a preliminary assessment of fitness of the LTSs with the targets set in the REPowerEU Plan has been provided.

At least 8 EU Member States have envisioned a temporary switch to natural gas at the expense of other fossil fuels or nuclear power in any sector of the energy system. In the longer term, however, every EU country may enter the natural gas phase-down path. The natural gas phase-out, not including essential and negligible natural gas residues in hard-to-abate sectors, is expected to be achieved by at least 8 EU Member States. Overall, the natural gas consumption is to be significantly reduced in the EU by 2050, but exact estimates cannot be provided since the majority of LTSs do not include numerical projections of natural gas consumption.

In the energy sector, natural gas-fired capacities may replace those fired by coal or nuclear power plants . Some already existing natural gas facilities might also act as an operating reserve or even still be fully operational in 2050 and beyond. In the industrial sector, natural gas is commonly perceived as an alternative to coal in high-temperature processes which cannot be electrified. When it comes to transport, EU Member States agree that CNG and LNG are only to be temporarily consumed as transition fuels. As for residential & tertiary, natural gas already holds a substantial share in total energy consumption in this sector in the EU (i.e. 31% as of 2019, which was the highest value among all sectors) and over the coming decades the efforts will be focused on reducing this share. The role of natural gas in agriculture has not been covered in the great majority of the LTSs.

Upon the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in the reluctance of EU as a whole and individual EU countries to continue importing fossil fuels from Russia, the issue of ensuring security of supply and energy security gained importance, especially in the case of natural gas, since in 2019 38% of natural gas imported to the EU came from Russia. Given the infrastructure constraints, the possibilities of supplier diversification are limited to an increase in LNG imports from other countries. However, the LTSs generally do not address this issue and rarely do they outline how the security of supply is to be ensured, whereas this is of particular importance for countries already highly dependent on Russian natural gas and considering not to reduce the natural gas consumption over the coming decades. For this reason, the LTSs are poorly consistent with the policy of withdrawal natural gas of Russian origin from the European energy system.

Natural gas in national Long-Term Strategies of EU Member States - 2022.pdf

Laskowski, K.; Kobyłka, K. (2022): Natural gas in national Long-Term Strategies of EU Member States. WiseEuropa, Warsaw.

Kamil Laskowski
Krzysztof Kobyłka
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