Are we on the brink of an energy supply shock?

Russia’s war in Ukraine could cause big economic problems, one of which is recession

No one can be sure of what happens in the event Russian president Vladimir Putin turns the gas supply off. File photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev

An energy price shock is one thing, an energy supply shock another.

The latter poses an entirely different set of challenges and comes with a risk of outages and rationing, something most of the population here has never experienced. In response to the deepening crisis in Ukraine, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe indicated on Wednesday that his department had begun modelling the economic impact of an adverse energy supply shock here.

The results will be published next week alongside its annual Stability Programme Update, which sets out the Government’s growth and budgetary projections for the year.

It's not obvious that Ireland is at risk of a supply shock as most of our gas imports come via the UK and North Sea and not directly from Russia.


However the situation is so volatile and unpredictable that no one can be sure of what happens in the event of a complete Russian gas shutdown. The current price shock has already eroded the growth outlook here while turning an expected budgetary surplus into a deficit.

Sudden shortage

A supply shock could prove significantly more corrosive. While households could perhaps weather a sudden shortage as the necessity of heating is less outside of winter, businesses are more vulnerable as their energy requirements are typically not seasonal.

The result could be a big hit to production, recession and return to 1970s-style stagflation, where high inflation is coupled with low growth. The 1970s were bookended by two energy price shocks linked to global oil supplies but the current crisis has the potential to be bigger and more economically damaging.

This time last year, when energy prices started ticking up, proponents of the stagflation scenario looked like scaremongerers. Fast forward a year and its the regulators and those who predicted inflation would be temporary that look out of step.

It’s not obvious that western sanctions are having as damaging an effect on Russia as governments claim.

The rouble’s recent increase in value reflects as much and the latest round of sanctions announced by the US and EU again carefully sidestep an oil and gas embargo, the one area guaranteed to hurt.