The great 2022 European energy crisis - what actually happened and how did Europe cope?

Publishing date
16 January 2023
Georg Zachmann
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The year 2022 exposed both dramatic structural weaknesses and the astonishing adaptability of Europe’s energy sector. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine it became clear that Europe’s dependency on energy imports from Russia are not a theoretical issue, but a grave strategic liability. Russia tried to exploit this vulnerability by emptying EU storage sites over the summer of 2021, leaving the EU in need of extra 33 bcm to refill its storage facilities. Russia then reduced its gas exports to the EU by 86 bcm (60%) in 2022. The EU coped by reducing the gas demand by more than 10% and almost doubling its liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports.


However, withheld gas supplies were not the only challenge for Europe’s energy sector. During 2022, France saw an inconsistent use of its nuclear reactors, with up to half of them being offline at certain times. In addition, Southern Europe experienced an especially severe draught, which implied low hydro-power production. Thus, the EU lacked about 7% of its low-cost electricity supplies.

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Wind and solar power compensated for a third of the shortfall. And running coal and gas power plants made up for another 10% of filling the gap. But this implied that the very scarce gas had to be burnt for electricity production and still the electricity demand needed to be reduced by about 5%.

Overall, Europe managed this energy supply crisis through a combination of (1) letting the internal market re-organise energy flows and rebalance energy demand-and-supply through painfully high prices, and (2) overcoming financial and regulatory barriers to storage filling and LNG infrastructure development.

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About the authors

  • Georg Zachmann

    Georg Zachmann is a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, where he has worked since 2009 on energy and climate policy. His work focuses on regional and distributional impacts of decarbonisation, the analysis and design of carbon, gas and electricity markets, and EU energy and climate policies. Previously, he worked at the German Ministry of Finance, the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, the energy think tank LARSEN in Paris, and the policy consultancy Berlin Economics.

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European natural gas imports

This dataset aggregates daily data on European natural gas import flows and storage levels.

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