98% of Austria’s gas imports still come from Russia, an all-time high since war began

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a keel laying ceremony for the 5th nuclear-powered icebreaker Leningrad (Project 22220) at the Baltiysky Shipyard in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (Pavel Bednyakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

A lack of diversification has led to nearly all of Austria’s natural gas coming from just one source: Russia.

Despite an unusually mild winter, Austria continues to feature nearly no gas diversification whatsoever. Austrian Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler, a Green Party politician, intends to take legal action against this development if necessary, and has announced a package of measures to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas.

It was a “big mistake with serious consequences,” said Gewessler about the gas supply contracts concluded with Russia in 2018, which run until 2040. She said that Austria had thus placed itself in a position of dependency that “a sovereign state cannot accept.”

What makes Gewessler so angry is the data from December 2023: According to this, 98 percent of all gas imports came from Russia.

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“That is an all-time high since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. This development proves that the players on the liberalized gas market are making too little effort to reduce our dependency,” said the green minister.

Another reason for this development is that a fixed purchase obligation (take-or-pay) was agreed in OMV’s supply contracts, according to Austrian newspaper Kurier. This means that payment must be made in any case, even if no Russian gas is purchased. As a result of these contracts, a higher proportion of Russian natural gas is being used while overall gas consumption is falling and import volumes remain the same. This is because gas consumption in Austria has fallen by a quarter, from 100.3 terawatt hours in 2021 to 75.6 terawatt hours in 2023.

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Gewesler now wants to take legal action against the way these contracts are structured: On Monday, she announced a package of measures to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas, as the high level of this dependence poses “a major economic and security risk” for Austria.

“We are currently seeing a clear market failure. There is enough non-Russian natural gas, but the energy companies are not buying it. If the market fails, the state has to intervene. I am convinced of this: The time has come for a statutory diversification obligation. And I also appeal to all those responsible in parliament — let’s take the next step now,” she said.

Not all parties agree with this strategy, and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), which is currently polling in first place, has argued that sanctions against Russia must be dropped in order to ensure Austria continues to receive cheap energy for its industrial sector.

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