By Sonali Paul
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Germany will completely stop buying Russian coal on Aug. 1 and Russian oil on Dec. 31, marking a major shift in the source of the country's energy supply, Joerg Kukies, state secretary in the German federal chancellery, said at a conference in Sydney.
The key challenge ahead will be filling the huge gap that will be left when the European Union weans itself off the 158 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year of gas that Russia supplies, Kukies said.
"We will be off Russian coal in a few weeks," he told the Sydney Energy Forum, co-hosted by the Australian government and the International Energy Agency.
Russian previously supplied 40% of Germany's coal and 40% of its oil, he said.
"Anyone who knows the history of the Druzhba pipeline, which was already a tool of the Soviet empire over eastern Europe, ridding yourself of that dependence is not a trivial matter, but it is one that we will achieve in a few months," Kukies said.
Germany is rapidly developing liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals to help fill the gas supply gap, but he highlighted that while the United States and Qatar could together supply around 30 bcm of gas in LNG form to Europe, that still left a huge gap.
"We can't just imagine this problem away," Kukies said.
He said while Germany was focused on the transition to net zero emissions and had recently put in place legislation to accelerate the development of renewable energy projects, gas would be essential to the shift.
(This story corrects headline and paragraph 1 to show Kukies is now state secretary in the federal chancellery, not deputy finance minister).
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Kenneth Maxwell)