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Energy minister: Hungary, Europe gas storage levels high

Gas storage levels are high across Europe, including in Hungary, thanks to a mild winter, Energy Minister Csaba Lantos said on Sunday. Though Europe continues to receive gas from Russia, a protracted war cannot be ruled out, the minister told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, adding that a rise in gas prices was also a possibility.

Commenting on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s remark that the European Union could face a gap of 30 billion cubic metres of gas, Lantos said that around 25 large liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals were being built across the bloc which could give the EU access to LNG.

Once those terminals are built, Europe will be able to say that it is truly independent from Russian gas, Lantos said. He added that though the LNG terminals were under construction, the winter of 2023-2024 would be a “tough” one for the continent.

Hungary, however, is in a slightly different position given the relatively high number of gas storage facilities in the country, Lantos said. As long as the Serbian pipeline is functioning, those storage facilities will be filled, he added.

The minister noted that the government will continue to provide cheap gas for Hungarians up to average consumption levels. The gas price above the threshold for average consumption is also below the market price, he said, noting that the government has decided not to raise that price in the current heating period ending on April 30.

Lantos also talked about the need to strengthen Hungary’s energy sovereignty. “We are highly dependent on foreign suppliers when it comes to energy,” he said. “This dependence has to be reduced.”

Though Hungary’s natural resources are not limitless, “we are not completely helpless,” Lantos said.

He noted that in 2021 the country’s annual natural gas consumption came to around 10 billion cubic metres, 1.5 billion of which can be produced domestically. The aim, he said, was to increase domestic natural gas extraction to 2 billion cubic metres a year.

Also, Hungary will continue to make use of weather-dependent renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy, Lantos said. Hungary’s solar plants were originally planned to reach a capacity of 6,000 megawatts by 2030, but that goal is now ahead of schedule, he said.

Meanwhile, Lantos said the upgrade of the country’s nuclear plant in Paks could be completed by 2032.

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