EU plans gas cuts to save up for winter

by Cristian Florescu

The European Union set out emergency plans for countries to cut their gas use by 15 per cent until March next year, warning them that without deep cuts now, they could struggle during winter if Russia cuts off supply.

Europe is racing to fill its gas storage ahead of winter and build up emergency supplies in case Moscow further restricts gas deliveries in retaliation for European support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. A dozen EU countries are already facing reduced Russian deliveries, and EU officials say a full Russian gas halt is likely.

The European Commission proposed a voluntary target for all EU countries to cut gas use by 15 per cent from August to March, compared with their average consumption in the same period during 2016-2021.

We need to prepare now for further disruptions – including a complete stop of Russian gas deliveries.

The regulation needs approval from a reinforced majority of EU countries. EU diplomats are set to discuss it, with the aim of approving it at an emergency meeting of energy ministers from around the bloc.

The plan has already hit resistance from some countries, which feel their contingency plans do not need a boost from the EU. Among those opposed to mandatory EU, targets are Poland, which has filled its gas storage to 98 per cent of capacity after Russia cut its gas supply in April. Others struggle to fill their storage capacity, Hungary for example, is at 47 per cent.

Brussels suggested measures that governments can take to curb gas use, including auctions for compensation to industries that cut gas use and limits on heating and cooling temperatures in public buildings. Governments should also decide the order in which they would force industries to close in a supply emergency. Households are classed as “protected consumers” under EU rules and would be shielded from such curbs.

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