Debate hears warnings against effects of ban on Russian gas

Ljubljana – If Europe stops using Russian gas, even if it maximises all other options, it will not be able to meet all its gas demand. If it decides to do so, the EU must then make it clear how it intends to drastically reduce its gas consumption, a round-table debate with Slovenian energy stakeholders heard on Thursday.

During the debate, organised by the Alumni Club of the Ljubljana School of Economics and Business, Dejan Paravan, a member of the energy trader GEN-I’s management board, expressed the hope that “there is a serious strategy” behind the statements on the suspension of gas supplies from Russia to Europe.

In the event of such a move, the EU will have to cut its gas consumption significantly. “There is no room for countries’ solo actions,” he warned.

Marjan Eberlinc, CEO of the gas transmission operator Plinovodi, agreed that such a large part of imports could not be replaced overnight. He pointed out that the idea that Europe can get through this situation by full natural gas storage facilities was wrong. “Gas must be supplied all the time,” he noted.

The process of transferring the entire supply from the eastern to the western supply route would be lengthy. And when it comes to the possibility of supplying additional gas to Slovenia from a gas terminal on the Croatian island of Krk, there are many conditions such as open calls, contractual relations and challenging negotiations, he warned.

Eberlinc also noted the bottleneck in gas supply route towards Slovenia at Croatia’s capital Zagreb. Realistically speaking, Slovenia can expect some 150 million cubic metres from Krk per year, he said. That is half the amount that was recently mentioned by Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec when he visited the terminal to discuss the option for Slovenia to tap its increased capacity.

Vekoslav Korošec, director of the engineering association with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), highlighted the importance of fast-tracking the siting of energy projects. Without intensive construction of renewable energy plants, Slovenia will find it difficult to get out of the current situation, he warned.

What is key is putting the public interest in energy supply above other interests, he said. “If we want to keep the industry, we also need to build nuclear power plants,” he added.

Paravan said that many large industrial customers delayed leasing gas last year in the face of gradually rising prices, which then backfired on them. Aleksander Mervar, head of the national grid operator ELES, agreed that those who had high electricity bills today had been speculating at the time. He warned households that their electricity bills could triple next year.

In this light Paravan said that in the long run the green transition was the only right solution, urging people to take the self-sufficiency path. However, according to Mervar, very few solar power plants will be realised in Slovenia in the coming years as the grid will had limited capacity.