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Economy

Russian Gas Winter Cutoff Could See Rationing in Greece, Blackouts

ATHENS – Worried that Russian gas supplies exempted from European Union sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine could anyway be lost this winter, Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) has drafted a series of emergency measures to prevent a nationwide blackout – including rationing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the flow of Russian natural gas to European customers has dwindled and warned that it could continue ebbing after he railed against the sanctions.

Putin’s statement further cranked up pressure on the European Union, which fears Russia could cut off gas to wreak economic and political havoc in Europe in the winter in retaliation for the penalties even if it means revenue losses.

Read more: Can Europe Live Without Russian Natural Gas?

Read more: Key Gas Pipeline from Russia to Europe Restarts after Break

Putin said the amount of gas pumped through the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany will fall further from 60 million to 30 million cubic meters a day, or about one-fifth of its capacity, if a turbine isn’t quickly replaced.

In Greece, restricted gas flows will have a direct impact on the country’s electricity system, with Russia supplying some 40 percent of fuel used to generate them, the New Democracy government trying to frantically switch back to coal after moving to phase it out.

Losing Russian gas and energy completely could be catastrophic, said Kathinerini, adding it could cost lives and severely disrupt to the  interconnected electricity systems of other countries.

It the Russian fuel is lost, Greece’s power grid operator ADMIE would have to implement emergency measures to stave off a partial or total system collapse during the cold and dark of winter.

These include an increase in the operation of coal and hydroelectric plants and the diesel operation of gas plants that can run on alternative fuel although switching back to coal will take time.

Greece would also, the report said, request emergency assistance from operators in neighboring countries who don’t have power problems – a remote possibility at best as the whole bloc would be affected.

Households would be urged to reduce their use of electricity during peak times but it wasn’t said what would happen with  businesses who are the major users although the government earlier said public building thermostats would have heating and cooling limits.

FREEZING IN THE DARK

Savings will also have to be made in the lighting, water, and sewage industries that could see the activation of load shedding mechanisms of industrial enterprises even if it cuts into their business operations.

If none of that works, then there would be power cuts to businesses and residential consumers that could have a devastating effect, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and health restrictions are returned.

Russian gas resumed flowing through the biggest pipeline between Russia and Germany – Nord Stream 1 – on July 21 after a 10-day outage, the operator said after there was anxiety a shutdown for maintenance would be extended.

Putin added that Russia could launch the recently completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline that has never entered service, but noted that it would only have half of its designated capacity because the rest has been used for domestic needs.

He also warned the West that its plan to cap the prices of Russian oil as part of its sanctions over Ukraine will destabilize the global oil market and make prices soar.

“We are hearing some crazy ideas about restricting the volumes of Russian oil and capping the Russian oil price,” he said. “The result will be the same – a rise in prices. Prices will skyrocket.”

The EU sanctions include bans on Russian coal and most oil to take effect later this year but did not include natural gas because the 27-nation bloc depends on it to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes.

But Russia’s Gazprom state-controlled natural gas giant reduced gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany by percent in June, citing technical problems after a turbine that Siemens sent to Canada for overhaul couldn’t be returned because of the EU sanctions.

The Russian leader said that Gazprom was to shut another turbine for repairs in late July, and if the one that was sent to Canada isn’t returned by that time the flow of gas will ebb even more.

As another reason for the supply reduction, he pointed out that Ukraine closed a branch of a transit pipeline carrying Russian gas to the West through territory controlled by Moscow-based separatists.

 

(Material from The Associated Press was used in this report)

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