The countries of the European Union (EU) today formally approved a voluntary reduction in gas consumption by 15% until spring, with Poland and Hungary voting against, as well as a clause so that the Council can activate an “alert” on security of supply that would make the cut compulsory.
The Council of the EU reported that only these two Member States voted against in the written procedure that formalized the political agreement reached by the Ministers of Energy of the Twenty-seven in an extraordinary council, held last week in Brussels.
“The purpose of the gas demand reduction is to make savings for this winter, in order to prepare for possible gas supply disruptions from Russia, which is continuously weaponizing energy supplies,” it said in a statement. the Council of the EU, an institution that represents the Member States.
These have committed to reduce their gas consumption by 15% compared to the average of the last five years, between August 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023.
The regulation adopted contemplates exceptions that different capitals claimed after learning of the initial proposal of the European Commission, such as the one that will allow Spain or Portugal to limit this cut to 7% due to the low level of interconnections with the rest of the European partners.
“The Council agreed that Member States that are not interconnected with the gas networks of other Member States are exempt from mandatory gas reductions, as they would not be able to release significant volumes of gas for the benefit of other Member States,” the Council said. .
Island countries such as Malta, Ireland or Greece will also enjoy exceptions, as well as those States whose electricity grid is not synchronized with the European one, such as the Baltics, and also those capitals that have exceeded their gas storage objectives, among other assumptions.
Gas reserves are currently at a level of 70.9%, in line with the objective of reaching 80% by November 1, although fuel is being paid at historically high prices.
The voluntary plan to reduce gas consumption could become mandatory if the Council, on a proposal from the European Commission, triggers an “alert” in the event of “a substantial risk of serious gas shortages or exceptionally high gas demand, or if five or more Member States that have declared an alert at national level request the Commission to do so”.
The Member States are responsible for designing their own gas saving plans, after having agreed that they will give priority to measures that do not affect households or “essential services for the functioning of society, such as critical entities, the medical care and defense.
The Council suggests ways “such as limiting gas consumption in electricity generation, promoting fuel changes in industry, national awareness campaigns, specific obligations to reduce heating and cooling and market-based measures, such as auctions between companies” .
The national emergency plans will have to be updated and the capitals will regularly inform Brussels of the changes.
When the regulation, which is an exceptional and extraordinary measure, completes its period of validity, the European Commission will analyze in May 2023 if it is necessary to extend it.