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Europe slashed winter gas use amid energy crisis

Overall gas use in the 27-nation European Union plunged by 19.3% from August to January compared with the five-year average for the same period, according to data published on Tuesday by EU statistics office Eurostat.

Russia, previously Europe’s top supplier, cut off most deliveries to EU countries in the months following its February invasion of Ukraine – triggering an energy crisis in Europe of scarce supplies and record-high prices.

Lower gas consumption has helped EU countries near the end of winter with their storage caverns unusually full – increasing confidence that they will avoid shortages. European gas prices have tumbled since December, although they remain higher than the average in recent years.

EU countries appear on track to overachieve their target to voluntarily cut gas demand by 15% from August to March – one of numerous emergency efforts introduced by Brussels and national governments last year to save fuel and replace Russian supplies with alternatives ahead of the northern hemisphere winter.

Analysts said it was too early to deduce what had curbed demand in specific sectors, but mild winter temperatures and industry curtailing production in response to high gas prices were among the drivers.

“Weather has definitely played a very big role,” said Jacob Mandel, senior associate at Aurora Energy Research.

EU gas demand dropped by more than 22% in October, November and January, Eurostat said. December, which began with a cold snap that likely boosted household heating use, recorded a smaller decrease of nearly 13%.

Eurostat did not break down the data by sector.

Separate analysis by think-tank Bruegel showed consumption in Germany, Europe’s biggest gas market, in January was down by 27% in industry, 25% among households and 12% in the power sector, compared with the 2019-2021 average for the month.

The decline was unevenly spread between countries. Finland’s gas use fell by 57%, Spanish demand fell by 14%, and in Malta, an island country not connected to the EU gas grid, consumption increased.

Source: Reuters