On Tuesday, EU energy ministers agreed on a voluntary target to reduce gas consumption by 15% between August and March 2023. This reduction is measured by each country’s average gas consumption in the same months over the previous five years.
But objections from some countries over the past few days have pushed the bloc to make key concessions, given their varying levels of reliance on gas and storage volumes.
The EU will now exempt countries that are not connected to the gas networks of other members from the mandatory 15% reduction in demand, since “they will not be able to release significant volumes of pipeline gas in the interests of other member states,” the report says. The Council of the EU, the bloc’s political union, said in a press release.
The Council also detailed a number of scenarios that would allow reduction targets to be mitigated, including in cases where states exceed their gas storage targets or are particularly dependent on gas to power critical industries.
“I know this decision was not easy. But I think, in the end, everyone understands that this sacrifice is necessary,” said Josef Sikela, the Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, who holds rotating presidency of the EU Council, at a press conference. conference. “We must, and we will share the pain.”
Sikela added that the countries had reached a “satisfactory compromise”.
The plan is yet to be enshrined in law – at least 15 of the bloc’s 27 member states, representing 65% of its total membership, have yet to approve the proposals.
In addition, the bloc would need to hold another vote on the Commission’s proposal to enforce mandatory emission reductions.
Meanwhile, a gas accident is developing in Europe.
Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company, said on Monday it would shut down a gas turbine on the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline for repairs, cutting flows to 33 million cubic meters per day from Wednesday – or just 20% of its daily capacity. Gas was pumped by 40% after Russia cut exports in response to Western sanctions.
Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, on Tuesday called the latest cut “a politically motivated move.”
She added that Gazprom’s statement “once again emphasized that we must be prepared for a possible cessation of supplies from Russia at any moment.”
According to the Intercontinental Exchange, this news led to the fact that gasoline prices in Europe rose by 10% on Monday compared to Friday.
Earlier this month, the Canadian government said a Siemens-made turbine could return to Germany if sanctions were lifted. But Gazprom said on Monday that documents obtained by Siemens for the repatriation of the turbine did not solve some of the problems, raising the risk of another cut in gas supplies to Europe.
The very real risk that Moscow could turn off the taps prompted the bloc to look for alternative sources of energy and quickly fill its gas storage facilities ahead of winter.
The country accounted for about 45% of the bloc’s total gas imports in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.
Earlier this month, Spanish transmission system operator Enagas said natural gas demand for electricity generation had reached a new record of 800 gigawatt-hours.
“This huge increase in demand for natural gas for power generation was mainly due to the high temperatures recorded as a result of the heat wave,” Enagas said in a press statement last week.
High demand for gas, combined with significantly reduced Russian flows, could severely limit Europe’s ability to replenish its reserves before temperatures begin to drop in a few months.
The bloc has set a goal of at least 80% capacity of member states’ gas storage facilities by November.
According to Gas Infrastructure Europe, they are currently about 67% full. This is much more than in the same period last year.
But Fatih Birol, chief executive of the International Energy Agency, last week described the situation in Europe as “dangerous” and said it must prepare for a “long and harsh winter.”
According to the IEA, even if European countries manage to fill their gas storage facilities by 90%, there could still be supply disruptions early next year if Russia decides to stop gas supplies from October.
— Alex Hardy contributed reporting.