Prime Minister Liz Truss and French President Emmanuel Macron have agreed to closely cooperate on energy supply as Russia continues to bleed Europe dry amid the Ukraine war. While this was hailed as an “important step as the West scrambles to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels, an energy expert told Express.co.uk that there can be no guarantees amid fears of a supply crunch threatening blackouts this winter.
The world leaders made the announcement following a bilateral meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York this week as western leaders battle to get get the volatile global energy market under control, which remains largely at the mercy of the Russian President.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “As our people face a difficult winter with huge uncertainty of energy supply and the cost of living, the Prime Minister and President Macron underscored the importance of working together to end reliance on Russian energy and strengthen energy security.”
Ms Truss tweeted following the meeting: “Putin’s economic blackmail cannot and will not succeed.”
While the UK only got four percent of its gas from Russia last year, there have been fears that the country could face blackouts amid soaring prices and strains on supplies in Europe. Meanwhile, France – which normally generates 70 percent of its electricity from nuclear power – has seen output plummet and is also scrambling to keep the lights on this winter.
The agreement between the two nations may be a huge show of force against Putin, but Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, warned that an agreement is no guarantee that supplies will be ample amid a “rough winter”.
He told Express.co.uk: “Increased energy cooperation between the UK and France would be another important tool for helping to maintain energy supplies this winter, but the gas crisis is so severe that there can be no guarantees.
“National Grid and other system operators will get us through the winter, with a mixture of power sources including our renewables that are not limited by fossil fuel supplies, but it might be rough.
“There is, literally, a war going on, and any issues this winter would be a consequence of our dependence on gas being exploited by Russia, and of decisions by the UK and the EU to oppose Russian aggression by getting off gas.”
This comes amid fears that Russia, which has already suspended flows travelling through the major Nord Stream pipeline indefinitely, could cut off the remaining supplies which reach the EU via Ukraine and Turkey.
Bob Seely, a Conservative MP who sits on the influential Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said in July: “There is likely to be an energy emergency in Europe, primarily caused by Germany’s disastrous decisions; first, to shut down its nuclear power stations to appease its obsessively anti-nuclear green lobby, and, second, to become utterly dependent on Russian gas.
“Currently, it seems likely that Putin will squeeze energy supplies further this winter to extract the maximum political pressure in Germany and other EU states that use Russian gas, such as Italy and Hungary. He wants to undermine the coalition in support of Ukraine.”
But as previously seen, gas supply cuts to Europe also have a huge impact on billpayers in the UK due to the integrated nature of the market.
Despite fears that a dependency on Putin could cause damage, Mr Cran-McGreehin told Express.co.uk that the current crisis is “worse than anything envisaged”.
He said: “It’s worth reiterating that this gas crisis is worse than anything that had been envisaged. If you’d asked just a few years ago, no-one would have wanted to pay the price for a system that was ‘gold-plated’ enough to cope with the gas crisis that we’re now experiencing – this gas crisis would have seemed too far-fetched.
“But now that we’re seeing the impacts of fossil fuel chaos, polling shows that people are keen to protect ourselves from this ever happening again – and the best way to do that is by speeding up the transition away from fossil fuels by using energy efficiency and renewables.”
However, despite blackout fears, the Government has previously stressed that this scenario is highly unlikely. A number 10 spokeswoman said last month: “Households, businesses, and industry can be confident they will get the electricity and gas that they need over the winter.
“That’s because we have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems in the world.”