Natural gas is already a very important fuel for the European energy system. As of 2019, this fuel was the second most consumed in the EU after crude oil – it accounted for 23% of gross inland energy consumption – authors of the “Natural gas in national Long-Term Strategies of EU Member States” report: Kamil Laskowski and Krzysztof Kobyłka write.
On the path to climate neutrality this share could even increase, as although natural gas is a fossil fuel, its CO2 emissions are significantly lower compared to crude oil and coal. For this reason, natural gas may be considered as a fuel which would replace other fossil fuels and thus facilitate fast emission reductions in the short term until low and zero carbon alternatives become more feasible. As this report shows, some EU Member States do actually perceive natural gas as a so-called transition fuel allowing to reduce GHG emissions in the sectors reliant on oil and coal.
Natural gas has more advantages. In many sectors natural gas is an economically viable option in the short term compared to other low-carbon alternatives. Moreover, natural gas infrastructure can be used (or adapted) to blend natural gas with alternative fuels or can be even entirely switched to alternative low and zero carbon gases, which is lowering the value of stranded assets and risks regarding carbon lock-in. Natural gas might be a halfway solution to the challenge of achieving climate neutrality since it responds to the technical difficulties of moving away from fossil fuels, especially in the short term.