“It would be a rough winter”: Minister on what Russian gas halt would mean for Czechia

The halt of Russian gas supplies to Europe via the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 1, allegedly for technical maintenance reasons, has raised questions about how EU member states would survive the winter without Russian fuels. According to Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Síkela, Czechia would face an uncomfortable period.

Nord Stream 1 pipeline | Photo: ČT24

Russia on Monday initiated a 10-day-long halt in gas deliveries to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, citing routine maintenance as the reason.

While this would not have been seen as out of the ordinary in previous years, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the associated freeze in relations between the EU and the Kremlin has led many to question whether this could be a precursor to a total halt of gas deliveries to Europe’s largest economy.

Illustrative photo:  ČT24

The same question is also being asked in Czechia, a country whose economy is closely intertwined with Germany’s and is moreover highly reliant on Russian gas supplies.

Speaking to Czech Radio on Monday, Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Síkela assured the public that a permanent halt in Russian deliveries would not lead to an immediate gas shortage.

“This is because we have sufficient supplies of gas in storage. Currently, it is at nearly 75 percent of our maximum storage capacity.

Jozef Síkela | Photo: ČT24

“At the same time, we have also prepared the option of importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) by renting out nearly a third’s worth of our country’s annual gas consumption at the floating LNG terminal in the Netherlands. It seems that this terminal will start operating already in September or from October 1.”

“That said, if gas deliveries to Europe were to cease and if it were shown that this is another attack in the ongoing undeclared energy war that Putin is waging on Europe rather than just a maintenance issue, then it would be an uncomfortable autumn and a very uncomfortable winter.”

LNG terminal | Illustrative photo: とまりん♪,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 2.1 JP

This “uncomfortable” period, the minister says, would mean dramatically regulating gas consumption. In order to keep the country’s industry running, especially its key sectors, the wider population would need to limit its gas consumption.

Aside from the immediate precaution of renting an LNG terminal off the Dutch coast, Czechia is also planning long-term measures, the minister says. The country is currently in negotiations with Germany in regard to the latter’s planned construction of gas storage facilities, which should be finished sometime around 2025. Czechia is currently exploring two options in this regard, either purchasing a share in the ownership of the facilities themselves, or renting them out.

Illustrative photo:  ČT24

The government is also planning to allocate CZK 66 billion towards alleviating the impact of the gas shortage on households and businesses. Mr Síkela said that the final form of the support programme will be defined by government decree, but he did offer some details on the legislation that his ministry has been tasked with preparing.

“Every household would get a relevant compensation. Since this would be a fixed rate, it would of course be up to each household how they use it. In some cases, households could be eligible for an allocation of up to CZK 20,000.”

The new legislation, referred to as the “savings tariff” is set to be put up to the vote in the Chamber of Deputies this Thursday.

Authors: Tom McEnchroe , Petr Král
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