Austria urged to rein in reliance on Russian gas

28 Jun 2023

Austria's Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler has said the country needs to move faster to reduce its reliance on Russian natural gas.

She spoke out following the weekend rebellion against the regime in Moscow, increasing the risk of sudden supply issues. 

"It's clear that we're not far or fast enough down the path to eliminate Russian gas," Gewessler said during a press briefing in Vienna following talks with utility executives. "Russia's supplies are insecure and will remain insecure." 

The minister's comments follow several weeks of market jitters over the medium-term outlook for gas flows into central Europe, where over half of Austria's supply comes from Russia. 

Kyiv's top energy official has cautioned the fuel flowing through pipelines in Ukraine could be cut off at any time, Bloomberg reports. 

Earlier this week, benchmark European gas prices increased as much as 14% due to mounting geopolitical risk following the Wagner mercenary group's mutiny in Russia. 

Gewessler added that Austria had urged companies not to sign any new agreements to buy Russian gas. State-controlled OMV AG has been the main channel for Russian gas flows into Austria for over 50 years and has a supply contract until 2040. 

Austria's Energy Minister added that shorter-term economic risks are limited. Gas storage depots in the country are 81% full, compared to just 45% last year. 

However, should flows stop suddenly, central European consumers could experience a price shock, according to government energy advisor Walter Boltz. 

"There's still a lot to do. The positive supply situation at present can quickly be tipped into a costly crisis through a sudden interruption of Russian supply," he stated.