What does Russia’s decision to cut gas to Poland mean for Austria?

Austria's Minister for Energy has confirmed gas supplies to Austria are continuing "without restriction" but warned a dependency on Russian energy must come to an end.

A Gazprom logo. Russian gas is crucial in Austria's energy supply. Photo: INA FASSBENDER / AFP
Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Poland on Wednesday. Photo: INA FASSBENDER / AFP

On Wednesday morning, Russia’s Gazprom stopped gas supplies flowing to Poland and threatened Bulgaria with similar action later in the day.

The move comes after both countries refused to comply with Vladimir Putin’s demands that customers must pay for natural gas in Roubles instead of Euros in retaliation to EU sanctions.

The stop to gas supplies in Poland has been confirmed by the European Network of Transmission System Operators.

Austria’s Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) confirmed on Wednesday morning that gas supplies were flowing as normal to Austria and were unaffected by the action in Poland. Austria uses different supply routes (via Nord Stream and Ukraine) to Bulgaria and Poland.

READ MORE: ‘An unprecedented situation’: How would a gas embargo impact Austria?

When asked in the Ö1 Morning Journal if there were any signs of a delivery stop for Austria, Gewessler said: “No, we do not have these signs.”

However, she expressed concerns about Austria relying on Russia for energy supplies and said: “We must do everything we can to end our dependence on Russian gas as quickly as possible.”

Austria is heavily dependent on Russian energy and sources around 80 percent of natural gas from Russia but a recent study by the Energy Agency shows that Austria could manage without Russian gas from 2027.

According to the study, which was commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment, it would require gas consumption to the reduced by 25 percent, a temporary tripling of alternative gas imports and the expansion of biogas and green hydrogen production in Austria.

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REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Amid fears about what would happen if gas supplies to Austria were disrupted, the Federal Government has put together a package of measures to create a strategic gas reserve.

REVEALED: What is Austria's emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

It has been well reported that Austria is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas – but what would happen if supplies were suspended or stopped altogether?

Austria sources 80 percent of its gas from Russia, so the country would be seriously impacted if supplies were disrupted due to the war in Ukraine, a breakdown of diplomatic relations or any other unforeseen event. 

This is why the Federal Government has now unveiled a package of measures to protect Austria’s gas reserves in the event of an energy emergency.

READ MORE: ‘An unprecedented situation’: How would a gas embargo impact Austria?

What is in the package?

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler and Finance Minister Magnus Brunner presented the plans following a meeting in the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, May 18th.

The most important points include an increase of the strategic gas reserve by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This would cover Austria’s gas consumption for two winter months but the additional gas would not be sourced from Russia, according to the Kronen Zeitung

Gewessler said: “This measure will significantly reduce dependence on Russian gas.”

Increasing the strategic reserve with non-Russian supplies will reduce Austria’s dependence on Russian gas to 70 percent, Gewessler added.

Additionally, gas storage facilities located in Austria – such as the Haidach facility in Salzburg – must be connected to the Austrian gas grid. Haidach, which is supplied by Gasprom, is currently only connected to Germany’s pipeline network and has not been refilled for some time.

Finally, any unused gas in company storage facilities should be surrendered to the government if needed. Companies will be financially compensated for this.

READ ALSO: Austrian Economy Minister says gas embargo would be ‘red line’

What about next winter?

Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer has already said that gas storage facilities in Austria have to be 80 percent full before the next autumn and winter season.

The storage level is currently at 26 percent, reports Der Standard.

Gewessler also appealed to the Austrian public to make changes to help reduce the dependence on gas for energy, calling for more gas boilers to be replaced with other heating systems.

She said: “Together we are strong and together we can achieve this feat.”

READ MORE: What would an embargo on Russian oil mean for Austria?