Germany says it is moving quickly to cut the cord on Russian energy.
BERLIN — Germany released a report on Friday showing that the country was cutting its dependence on Russian energy sooner than many thought possible.
Robert Habeck, the vice chancellor and economic minister, said Germany expected to cut its imports of Russian oil in half by the midsummer and nearly end the imports by end of this year.
The need for Russian coal could be halved in “the coming weeks,” he said. And he estimated that Germany could be free of Russian gas by the middle of 2024, if all goes well.
“We have made intensive efforts in recent weeks, together with all relevant stakeholders, to import less fossil energy from Russia and broaden the supply base,” Mr. Habeck said.
The remarks came on the day when President Biden made a commitment to help the European Union become free of Russian of energy, pledging to secure an extra 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas by the end of this year.
Speaking in Berlin at a news conference after presenting a progress report on German energy security, Mr. Habeck said the shift away from Russian gas was happening at an “insane pace.”
“Every supply contract that is terminated hurts Putin,” he said.
Russian natural gas, which Germany receives through fixed pipelines, will be the hardest to quit and require liquefied natural gas terminals and floating LNG storage tanks. The government is moving quickly to acquire both types of facilities. Germany currently imports 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia.
Germany gets about half its coal from Russia but lately has been buying more supplies from other countries. The need for Russian coal could be phased out by the fall, he said.
Mr. Habeck made the announcement a day after European leaders wrestled over further sanctions on Russia to penalize it for its invasion of Ukraine. While the United States and some Eastern European countries in NATO have been calling for an immediate boycott on Russian fuels, Germany and a number of smaller countries have insisted an energy boycott now would be too costly.
Mr. Habeck underscored the concerns about the impact of an immediate boycott.
“Even if we become more independent of Russian imports, it is too early for an energy embargo at this point in time,” Mr. Habeck said. “The economic and social consequences would still be too serious.”
A number of opposition lawmakers, academics and other public figures in Germany signed an open letter, released Thursday evening, demanding Germany boycott Russian energy. Earlier in the week, Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned German lawmakers that stopping the importation of Russian gas so precipitously could lead to job losses in the hundreds of thousands and a recession.
“We still have a long way to go, and we will only be able to bid farewell to Russian gas with a joint show of strength — the federal government, the states, local authorities, companies and private households together,” Mr. Habeck said.