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ENERGY

Italy will ‘soon’ stop buying gas from Russia, says minister

Italy is ethically obliged to stop buying Russian gas as the payments are funding the Ukraine war, said the country's Ecological Transition Minister.

Italy will 'soon' stop buying gas from Russia, says minister
Photo by BARBARA SAX / AFP.

“I think that we will have to stop supplies of gas from Russia soon for ethical reasons,” minister Roberto Cingolani told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper.

Cingolani has just returned from a two-day trip to Angola and Congo Republic seeking energy deals as Italy scrambles to reduce its dependency on Russia, which provides about 45 percent of Italy’s gas supply.

READ ALSO: ‘A waste of time’: Talks with Putin go nowhere, says Italy’s PM

“We are diversifying our sources with great speed,” he said.

“It is clear that all of Europe is heavily dependent on Russia for gas, and this has been a major geopolitical mistake made over the past 20 years,” he said.

“It is useless to think that we can solve it in a month. From a certain point of view, however, this money is a lot… we are indirectly financing the war.”

Cingolani predicted the country would no longer need Russian gas within 18 months.

Just two weeks earlier, he had said he expected it to take up to three years to wean the country off Russia’s gas supply.

“By the second half of next year we will really begin to have an almost complete independence,” he told La Stampa.

Italy is one of Europe’s biggest consumers of gas, which currently represents 42 percent of its energy consumption, and it imports 95 percent of the gas it uses.

The foray into Angola and the Congo Republic follows the clinching of gas agreements with Algeria and Egypt in recent weeks.

The government also says it will soon sign off on its so-called “operation thermostat”, which is expected to mean the public sector is forced to use less heating and air conditioning, and the general public will be called on to follow suit.

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ENERGY

How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy's government has repeatedly said it plans to end its dependence on Russia for gas supplies following the invasion of Ukraine. But as the timeline keeps changing, when and how could this happen?

How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy is heavily dependent on Russian gas, but has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as part of an effort to end this reliance in the coming years.

But it remains unclear whether Italy can really end its dependence on Russia for its gas supply – or when this might be feasible.

READ ALSO: What does Italy’s Algerian gas deal mean for energy supplies?

The government has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including with a recent deal to boost supplies from Algeria.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week the country could be independent of Russian gas by the second half of 2024 – the latest in a series of changing estimates.

“Government estimates indicate that we can make ourselves independent from Russian gas in the second half of 2024,” Draghi told the Senate, while adding that the “first effects” of this plan would be felt by the end of this year.

He said his government was also seeking to boost its production of renewable energy, including by “destroying bureaucratic barriers” to investment, saying it was the “only way” to free Italy from having to import fossil fuels.

Explained: Why and how Italy will pay for Russian gas in rubles

In April, Italy‘s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani estimated the country would no longer need Russian gas within 18 months, following an earlier prediction that it could take until 2025.

Italy is one of Europe’s biggest users and importers of natural gas, importing 90 percent of its gas supply with 45 percent of that coming from Russia – up from 27 percent ten years ago.

Italy now imports 29 billion cubic metres of Russian gas a year, which Cingolani said in March “must be replaced” – but he didn’t specify with what.

Analysts have said there are “a lot of questions” about how helpful Italy’s gas deal with Algeria will be.

Despite its vast natural gas reserves, Algeria is already exporting at close to full capacity.

Draghi repeated his strong support for EU sanctions on Moscow last week, including a proposed ban on imports of Russian oil, although this is currently being blocked by Hungary.

“We must continue to keep up the pressure on Russia through sanctions, because we must bring Moscow to the negotiating table,” he said.

But for now, Italian energy giant Eni says it plans to pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles, meeting a demand from Vladimir Putin.

It was not immediately clear whether the plan would fall foul of European Union sanctions, although Eni said it was “not incompatible”.

The company said its decision to open the accounts was “taken in compliance with the current international sanctions framework” and that Italian authorities had been informed.

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