Since the invasion, the EU has approved bans on Russian coal and most oil to take effect later this year, but it did not include Russian natural gas because the 27-nation bloc depends on gas to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has weaponized gas exports to pressure the bloc into reducing its sanctions over the war in Ukraine or to push other political aims. The EU has been left scrambling to fill gas storage ahead of winter, when demand rises and utility companies draw down their reserves to keep homes warm and power plants running.
Statistics Norway said natural gas exports reached 128 billion kroner ($13.2 billion) in July, more than four times higher than in the same month last year.
Jon Olav Roerhus, senior adviser for external trade at Statistics Norway, said reductions in Russian gas deliveries to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline contributed to soaring gas prices last month, which were “the main reason for the exceptionally high export value we are now experiencing.”
At a one-day meeting of the five Nordic leaders in Oslo, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said: “We must phase out Russian gas as soon as possible.” She said Europe is “facing a challenging fall.”
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the Nordic countries also should focus on renewable energies, including wind and solar.
“We all struggle with increased energy prices,” said Gahr Støre, whose country and Iceland are not EU members.
“As we enter the cold winter, our populations have to understand what is at stake,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.