(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s executive will begin a push to strengthen its energy security and accelerate the shift away from fossil fuel imports, while wrestling with the tricky task of curbing supplies of Russian liquefied natural gas. 

The European Commission on Wednesday is set to outline its efforts to accelerate the transition, according to EU diplomats with knowledge of the issue. That would kick-start work on an action plan to be unveiled later.

A key challenge is reconciling the interests of the EU’s 27 member states, which have different energy sources, supply contracts from third countries and strategies for the deployment of renewables. 

Another is actually phasing out supplies from Russia, the bloc’s former top supplier before the war in Ukraine. While relations with Moscow have deteriorated, the EU has actually ramped up Russian LNG imports in recent years. Some officials are also keen to keep open the existing pipeline network across Ukraine.

EU energy ministers last month called on the commission to present a roadmap to phase out Russian fossil fuels. They also backed a proposal by Germany and the Czech Republic to create a high-level group of member states to steer the work. 

One option for EU nations is to make use of a new law — effective in January — to temporarily ban LNG deliveries from Russia and Belarus to protect their essential security interests. Finland has already said it intends to use the provision to phase out remaining Russian imports. Other countries are more cautious about the market and the effect on existing LNG contracts.

Still, some EU diplomats see law as a starting point in a discussion about sanctioning Russian gas, a move that would provide a stronger regime and justification for terminating deliveries from Moscow.

Existing Imports

Russia currently supplies around 18 billion cubic meters of LNG to European ports — chiefly in France, Spain and Belgium — with around 1 billion cubic meters of that then being re-exported, according to data from the EU’s energy regulator. 

The bloc is now discussing sanctions on key Russian LNG projects and a ban on using EU ports to re-export supplies to third countries. However, there isn’t enough support from member states to start talks on fully prohibiting imports of LNG.

Talks are also ongoing to keep Russian gas flowing to Europe across Ukraine when the transit agreement expires at the end of this year. One option would be for EU companies to buy and inject gas from Azerbaijan into Russian pipelines heading to Europe.

European gas prices remain highly susceptible to supply disruptions, and officials want to minimize any potential volatility ahead of winter. The energy crisis of 2022, due in large part to a severe reduction in Russian pipeline gas, brought Europe’s economy to the brink of recession. 

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