The European Commission (EC) proposed this Wednesday that the countries of the European Union reduce their gas consumption by 15% between August 1 and March 31, 2023 with saving measures in households, companies and the public sector to prepare for a possible cut in supply by Russia.
The plan, dubbed “Save gas for a safe winter”calls on governments to campaign for households to lower the thermostat, to limit heating or air conditioning in public buildings, and to give industry incentives to use alternative fuels where possible or reduce gas consumption.
These actions should help meet the 15% reduction target with respect to average consumption for the same period over the last five years, which, for the time being, is voluntary for the states.
Required objectives if an “alert” is declared for supply
However, the regulation proposed by the Community Executive provides that the Commission can impose mandatory gas demand reduction goals if it declares an “alert” on the security of supply throughout the Union, which would occur when a serious risk of shortage or an exceptionally high demand for gas is detected.
Brussels’ contingency plan comes as the flow of Russian gas to the EU has already been reduced by 30% compared to the 2016-2021 averagepartly due to the “unjustified” and “unilateral” actions of Gazprom, which has completely or partially interrupted supplies to twelve EU countries.
“The recent escalation of gas supply disruptions from Russia point to a significant risk that a complete and prolonged interruption of Russian gas supplies could materialize abruptly and unilaterally“, points out the Commission, which calls for immediate action.
Act now, argues the Commission, would reduce the impact of a total cut on European GDP by at least a thirdcausing a fall of 0.4% instead of the decrease of between 0.6% and 1% that it estimates if the saving measures are postponed, would reassure the markets and smooth out the volatility of prices.
Priority for renewable or cleaner energies
With the 15% reduction in mind, Brussels has drawn up a Gas Demand Reduction Plan that focuses on replace this fuel with other energy sourcesreduce consumption in all sectors and, at the same time, ensure that supply to households and essential users such as hospitals or industries that are essential to the European economy is guaranteed.
“Before considering restrictions (on supply) States should exhaust all possibilities of substitutionvoluntary savings schemes and alternative energy sources,” said the Community Executive in the statement.
Brussels calls to give priority to renewable or cleaner energies when replacing gas with another fuel, but acknowledges that it might be necessary to resort to coal, oil or nuclear energy “as a temporary measure”, something that some countries have already done.
Incentives and heating and cooling systems
It also calls on States to consider incentives to reduce energy consumption in industryfor example, launching auctions or tenders to compensate for a certain reduction or through public aid, for which it has amended its State aid rules.
Another “important pillar” of savings will be the heating and cooling systemsaccording to the Brussels plan, which suggests setting limits on the temperature that can be reached in public buildings, although the final proposal avoids setting specific thresholds that had been considered in the initial drafts.
The regulation and plan to reduce consumption will have to be now discussed and approved by the Member States.
Von der Leyen assures that Russia is “blackmailing”
Von der Leyen: “Russia is blackmailing us and Europe must be prepared”
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, warned this Wednesday that Russia is using energy as a “weapon” against the possible partial or total cut off of the gas supply of this country to the Member States and asked the governments to be “prepared” for this “probable” scenario.
“Russia is blackmailing us, using energy as a weapon. Therefore, be it the partial or total cut, Europe must be prepared“Von der Leyen said at a press conference in which the Community Executive presented its proposal for the countries of the European Union to reduce their gas consumption by 15% between August 1 and March 31, 2023.
Von der Leyen acknowledged that this reduction “is asking too much”but insisted that the lesson learned by the EU during the coronavirus pandemic must be, in the face of a crisis that “would hit each and every one of the Member States”, that the “worst enemy of the EU would be fragmentation” and that “If we act together we can tackle any crisis.”