The Maghreb, the key to breaking with Russian gas

Barcelona“Since the war began, we have given Putin 35 billion euros.” These are the words of the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell. The payments are a result of Europe’s heavy dependence on energy – especially gas – for Moscow. The European Union is now looking for other places to supply itself with energy so that it does not have to depend on Vladimir Putin. The key, some experts say, is on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, and especially in the Maghreb.

“This area can be the energy warehouse of all Europe,” says Octavi Quintana, director of the Prima Foundation, an entity promoted by 19 Mediterranean countries, founded in 2017 and with a budget of 494 million euros, in a conversation with ARA. of which 274 are provided by member countries and 220 million by the European Union.

He’s not the only one who thinks so. The director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, Francesco La Camera, believes that “there is no doubt” that Europe must invest in renewable energy in the countries of North Africa. However, it will not only be necessary to invest in generation, but also in transport infrastructure, especially the interconnections, both electricity and gas, which in the future may be used for green hydrogen.

The director of the Prima Foundation highlights two important aspects to consider. In North Africa there is a lot of resources for renewables, both solar and wind, making it an area specially equipped to generate photovoltaic and wind energy. But in addition, there is a country, Algeria, where everyone is looking now, which has significant reserves of natural gas, the energy considered transitional, which is now causing Russia’s main dependence. The problem is that Algeria no longer has the capacity to extract gas and should invest in it. But the idea is clear: “Europe should look further south for its own interest,” said Octavi Quintana. In addition, he says, the population pyramid can help. Countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean have a much younger population that is much easier to digitize and introduce into new technologies, which are key to renewables.

Quintana is confident that the war in Ukraine will precipitate an increase in European investment in North Africa. But it also highlights that these countries can suffer greatly from the effects of the war, because they are major importers of Russian and Ukrainian grain. Octavi Quintana strongly believes in the strength of “scientific diplomacy” to promote cooperation programs in countries where political relations are not easy, as evidenced by the closure of one of the gas pipelines in Spain due to poor relations between Algeria and Morocco or the impact that the change in Spain’s position on Western Sahara may have.

Within this new energy landscape, Barcelona could play a key role. Francesco La Camera sees the need to boost investments in interconnections between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. For Quintana, Barcelona should be the benchmark for technologies against climate change.

The importance of MidCat

In fact, the port of Barcelona has the main regasification plant in Europe. The problem, however, is to bring the gas that reaches the Catalan capital to the rest of the continent. According to Antoni Llardén, President of Enagás, the company’s Barcelona plant is a key tool for “providing security” for gas supply in Europe. , in the future, through MidCat, the halfway line between Catalonia and France.

Llardén visited the port plant this week, accompanying the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, who reiterated the need to end MidCat, an infrastructure that is considered key to breaking with Germany’s dependence on Russian gas. Research by the German Institute for Economic Studies indicates that Berlin may stop relying on Russian gas next winter to make the most of regasification plants in other European countries and, in the future, MidCat. “If the potential for energy savings is maximized and gas purchases in other countries are increased as far as technically possible, supply to Germany in the winter of 2022-2023 would be guaranteed without Russian imports,” he said. study.

Gas purchase in Algeria drops by 33%

In the first quarter of the year, Spain imported 7,629 GWh of natural gas from Russia, which is 32% less than the same period last year, thus confirming the reduction in the country’s natural gas consumption since of the outbreak of war. However, after the invasion of Ukraine, natural gas from the country ruled by Vladimir Putin continued to arrive in Spain in March. In the first quarter of the year, natural gas imports from the United States increased almost sixfold (+ 459.9%) compared to the same period last year, from 7,472 GWh in the first three. months from 2021 to 41,839 GWh between January and March this year. For its part, purchases of gas in Algeria, historically the largest supplier in Spain, during the first quarter of 2022 have fallen by 32.9%, although it remains a major supplier to cover 26.1 % of total state consumption.

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