In 2015, the Russian energy supplier Gazprom agreed with E.ON, Shell, Engie, BASF/Wintershall and OMV that the Nord Stream pipeline was to be expanded in order to deliver more gas to Germany from Russia. A new 1,200-kilometre-long pipeline was to double existing capacity by 2019.
Even though the first two lines are only running to 70 per cent capacity at present, the Nord Stream 2 project is intended to supply a further 55 billion cubic metres of gas to Germany every year. The company New European Pipeline AG was set up for this purpose. It is registered in Switzerland, outside the European Union, and Gazprom owns 50 per cent of its shares.
Disregarding the concept of a European energy union, which envisages the diversification of raw material sources in the EU, and riding roughshod over the resolutions passed by the Paris Climate Conference on reducing CO2 emissions and the associated gradual withdrawal from fossil fuels, the German government is driving the project forward undeterred. In October 2015, for instance, its Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller for bilateral talks on the future strategy for supplying Germany with Russian gas. Although Mr Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel never tire of insisting that Nord Stream 2 is a purely private-sector project over which they have no influence, the planned pipeline expansion is actually far from being simply a private matter. With its 50-year timescale, the project will incur significant geostrategic and infrastructural costs and have a major adverse impact on European policy as well as creating a situation of “carbon lock-in”.
Instead of setting our fossil fuel infrastructure and fossil fuel dependency in stone for decades to come with Nord Stream 2, we need to ensure that our energy comes increasingly from renewable sources and take measures to reduce demand. These include adopting an ambitious strategy for energy-efficient heating and cooling to replace inefficient heating systems and promoting a switch from using natural gas to renewable energy as fuel (solar energy, geothermal energy, sustainable biomass, repurposing surplus energy (“power-to-X”)). To this end, the EU should use its financial mechanisms, guarantee funds and technical assistance to stimulate investment in energy efficiency by implementing a de-risking strategy mainly targeting countries in Central and South-East Europe as already proposed in the Luxembourg Declaration.
Although Nord Stream 2 may be self-funding as far as it being a pipeline project is concerned, its negative political and economic knock-on costs are immense. It also goes against Europe’s decarbonisation commitments under the Paris Agreement and further entrenches dependency on fossil fuels. It undermines the continued development of a European energy union and makes Europe less competitive, since it renders the EU dependent on a single supplier that could use its monopoly as a way of exerting pressure in the future. Furthermore, Nord Stream 2 cannot be considered as a separate issue to the problems of security policy in Ukraine. All this cannot and must not be in the interests of Germany or the EU.
For these reasons, we will not be adopting a position of political indifference to the project as the German government itself is currently attempting to suggest, but will instead be explicitly opposing the expansion of this unnecessary infrastructure project that is harmful to the environment. We need to focus on truly domestic energy sources such as solar, water, wind and sustainable biomass. Not only do they now generate power far more cheaply than new gas or coal power stations will, they also free us from a dependency on expensive imported energy.