The world’s energy watchdog has called on Russia to send more gas to Europe as the energy supply crunch bleeds across the continent, in a rare public rebuke of the Kremlin.
The International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises global governments on energy policy, called out the gas-rich country for refusing to increase exports even as fierce demand has driven market prices to successive record highs, appearing to support claims that Russia is withholding supplies.
“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,” the Paris-based agency said.
“This is also an opportunity for Russia to underscore its credentials as a reliable supplier to the European market,” it said.
The IEA’s intervention has come amid growing unease in Europe over Russia’s decision not to increase gas exports to Europe next month, despite record gas market prices across the continent.
It said Russia had been “fulfilling its long-term contracts with European counterparts – but its exports to Europe are down from their 2019 level”.
EU politicians have accused the Kremlin of deliberately withholding gas supplies while it awaits regulatory approval for a controversial pipeline project, Nord Stream 2, which would double Russia’s capacity to export gas to Germany.
Russia is not using all of its available pipeline capacity to export gas to Europe but state officials and executives at the state-owned gas company Gazprom have reportedly said it may increase gas sales to Europe once the pipeline has been approved.
About 40 EU politicians have asked the European Commission to investigate the role of Gazprom’s behaviour in driving European gas prices to record levels.
The IEA’s decision to speak out against Russia’s gas export policy as Europe’s crisis deepens supports the view that Moscow has played a role in the crisis, alongside global energy market drivers.
The IEA, which is mostly funded by OECD countries, was originally set up to monitor global oil supplies after the 1970s oil crisis, and provides independent advice to major governments designed to safeguard international energy security.
Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, said: “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.
“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.”