Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.

Europe would have to curb its natural gas use by up to 30% if Russian flows stop completely, the IEA’s chief told Bloomberg.
Fatih Birol’s comments come as Europe races to shore up gas reserves before winter arrives.
Earlier this month, Russia cut gas flows to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline by 60%.

Europe should be prepared to curb its natural gas consumption by up to 30% if Russia completely halts flows, the International Energy Agency’s chief said Tuesday.

IEA Executive Director Faith Birol told Bloomberg that Europe must prepare for such cuts as countries shore up reserves ahead of the winter months.

“Depending on its timing, a complete cut-off of Russian gas supplies to Europe could result in storage fill levels being well below average ahead of the winter, leaving the EU in a very vulnerable position,” Birol said in emailed comments to Bloomberg. “In the current context, I wouldn’t exclude a complete cut-off of gas exports to Europe from Russia.”

He said lowering consumption should first start with industry usage and households to reach storage goals. 

For now, the European Union’s storage filling is on pace to reach 90% capacity by November 1. But if Russia halts its gas exports completely, that could fall to 75%, according to Bloomberg.

Birol’s comments come as Russia has already taken steps to limit supplies. Earlier this month, Russia cut gas flows to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline by 60%.

And a complete cutoff would push gas prices to “significantly higher” levels, Birol added. The European benchmark has tripled from a year ago as the West and EU move away from Russian flows in response to its invasion of Ukraine. 

Last week, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck declared the country is now in the “alarm” phase of its gas emergency plan, signaling that businesses and households need to cut down on consumption and that the government foresees long-term risk of supply shortfalls. 

Germany has exited the early-warning level and could potentially move into the third and final phase of the plan, the emergency level. 

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