Winter not over, but Europe braces for the next one

Europe has weathered the energy crisis that followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine so far, but businesses and households are already thinking about how to get through the next winter.

Mild weather, government aid, gas storage facilities at full capacity and energy imports from other regions have helped Europe limit the economic damage caused by the war.

Outside the western industrial city of Dortmund in Germany, brewery Veltins adapted by using reuseable bottles, partially converting its gas oven to use fuel oil and spending 30 million euros ($32.5 million) to stock up on raw materials.

"We did not have to lower our production," Veltins spokesman Ulrich Biene told AFP.

Germany, which relied heavily on Russian gas imports before the war, provided massive aid to consumers, scrambled to fill up its storage facilities and found new sources of energy as Moscow turned off the taps.

The government said last week it expects Europe's biggest economy to avoid recession this year, though data on Jan. 30 showed a contraction in the last three months of 2022.

To beef up winter supplies, Germany and its EU neighbors bought LNG from Qatar and the United States, which is more expensive than Russian gas that was brought in via pipelines.

LNG imports in Europe jumped by 60 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

As a result "the worst case scenarios for 2022/2023 winter did not happen," said Fabian Skarboe Ronningen, senior analyst for power markets research at Rystad Energy.

European gas stocks are currently at 72 percent of capacity, double this time last year.

With temperatures so far this winter more clement than usual,...

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