EU adopts gas storage rules under threat of Russian cuts
In a meeting overshadowed by the threat of further Russian gas cuts, European energy ministers voted unanimously on Monday 27 June to adopt a new law guaranteeing that the storage of gas in Europe will be at least 80% full by November 2022.
So far, 12 EU countries have faced interruptions to their Russian gas deliveries and supply levels are half as high as last year, according to the European Commission, which denounced the ” blackmail “ from the Kremlin to energy security.
There are now fears that the cuts will continue, to the point that the EU will lose its entire supply of Russian gas by the end of the year.
“Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we have known that a very serious disruption is possible and it now seems likely”Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson told reporters after Monday’s ministerial meeting in Luxembourg.
Russia is trying to use the gas supply to spread uncertainty, destabilize the EU market, prevent adequate gas storage for next winter, raise energy prices and jeopardize the security of the EU. supply, Ms. Simson said.
“The situation is deteriorating. If the gas supply of the Member States is currently guaranteed, the risks linked to the security of supply are greater than ever”she warned.
While the EU has already done a lot to improve energy security, “The time has come to move up a gear”added Ms. Simson.
The European Commissioner for Energy welcomed the unanimous decision of EU ministers to approve the regulation on gas storage, which provides for a filling rate of at least 80% by 1 November 2022 and to 90% the following winters. This decision follows a political agreement reached on 19 May.
In total, this means that EU countries will collectively attempt to fill 85% of their total underground gas storage capacity this year.
“I have no doubt that this decision has sent a very clear message to companies to act”said Ms. Simson. “Yet some Member States have made less progress and it is important that all countries continue to fill storage despite reduced gas flows. »
“Full underground gas storage gives us additional security”she recalled.
Good progress towards filling storage
Despite a lack of progress in some EU countries, fill levels are 56% higher than the historical average, according to the European Commission.
Meanwhile, the French EU presidency, which rushed through the proposal, celebrated the approval of the regulation by the Council of Ministers. In the current International context, it “strengthens Europe’s energy resilience and real solidarity between Member States”said France.
“The EU now has a tool which obliges all Member States to have adequate gas storage for the winter period and which facilitates sharing between countries”said Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the French Minister for Energy Transition who chaired Monday’s meeting.
However, others pointed out that the rules should have been put in place earlier. Luxembourg Energy Minister Claude Turmes said he started fighting for such a law when Gazprom, which controls just under half of storage in Europe, failed to fill its stocks in the countries. Netherlands, Germany and Austria last fall. According to Mr Turmes, it took the war in Ukraine to move the Commission.
High gas prices could also complicate the filling of storage.
Asked about the possibility of filling gas stocks to the required level as Russia reduces gas flows, the Dutch Minister for Climate and Energy admitted that there were difficulties.
“Obviously rising gas prices will make it more difficult to buy enough gas to fill all storage and that is exactly why we have moved to phase 1. [et] have taken some preventative measures to ensure that there is more gas on the market”said Rob Jetten, whose home country has one of the largest gas storages in Europe.
“The Netherlands is taking a huge responsibility for the coming winter by providing a special subsidy for companies to actually fill our gas tanks. We are also doubling our energy facilities in the north of the country. This does not only concern the Netherlands, but also other countries in northwestern and central Europe”he added.
In particular, the EU hopes to solve its gas supply problem through diversification.
According to Ms Simson, the EU again broke its LNG import record per month in May this year. She also highlighted the “close cooperation” with the United States, which has already delivered 28 billion cubic meters of gas this year.
On Monday, the EU and the United States also released a joint statement on their collaboration on Europe’s energy security, both by increasing renewable technologies, such as heat pumps, and by helping Europe to diversify its fossil gas supply.
“The United States and the European Commission have made significant progress in reducing the European Union’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels by reducing demand for natural gas, cooperating on energy efficiency technologies and diversifying energy supplies”the statement read.
Europe is also showing solidarity. At the meeting of energy ministers, Austrian Climate Minister Leonore Gewessler echoed a call from EU leaders last week to “take all appropriate measures to ensure closer energy coordination between Member States”.
His German counterpart, Robert Habeck, also called on EU countries to work together, saying a “supply crisis in one country leads to an economic crisis in another”.
“We are committed and dependent on solidarity here. But that’s also the spirit I feel when I talk to my colleagues.”he added.
Preparing for further disruptions
Meanwhile, Spain’s Ecology Minister Teresa Ribera called on the EU to remain united in the face of disruptions to Russian gas supplies.
“I think it is very important that Europe takes advantage of this situation to ensure that we have a common response”she added.
Ms Simson called on EU countries to go further, saying they needed to update their contingency plans for possible cuts to include solidarity agreements. Only six of these agreements are currently in place, which is not ” not enough “she said.
“We need a coordinated response and Member States need to help each other because we also have landlocked countries that depend on reverse flows and their neighbors’ willingness to supply energy”added Ms. Simson.
The European Commission plans to present a proposal on energy demand reduction in July and work is continuing on this, according to Ms Simson.
Although the EU is working to avoid cuts in gas supplies, Ms Simson did not rule out the possibility, saying the EU executive is working on guidelines to minimize the overall impact of disruptions on the EU. European economy.
This coordinated demand reduction plan will include an updated analysis of scenarios for next winter, a set of good practices for saving gas in a preventive way and guidance on managing demand from unprotected consumers, in particular the sector. industrial.
In the context of the meeting with EU ministers, Ms Simson proposed six key actions which constitute the “Winter Preparedness Action Plan”.
In addition to the demand reduction plan and greater solidarity between EU countries, the aim is to strengthen monitoring and coordination through the coordination group for gas, to replace consumption as much as possible of gas by other fuels — preferably renewable energies —, to accelerate the deployment of renewable energies and to stimulate energy savings.
The EU has offered an energy-saving guide as part of its plan to phase out Russian fossil fuels and Ms Simson on Monday asked ministers to speed up those measures.
The European Commission will help through information campaigns, IT tools and cooperation with groups such as the International Energy Agency to promote these measures, as most actions are voluntary.
“This is our top priority, as using less energy as we approach the heating season will help us cope with any further disruptions”Ms. Simson said.
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