The energy ministers of the European Union will meet this Tuesday to discuss the proposal presented by the European Commission to reduce consumption by 15% in all Member States until next spring, an approach for which they will request certain exceptions according to the circumstances of each EU country, after the reluctance expressed by Spain, Portugal or Greece.
The holders of the Energy portfolio will discuss last week’s Community Executive proposal to cut their gas consumption by 15% voluntarily until the end of March, a reduction that Brussels wants to be able to impose on a mandatory basis in case of alert for security of supply.
Exceptions according to the circumstances of each country
Thus, the Energy Council intends to open the door for a 15% reduction target to be contemplated exceptions based on the circumstances of some Member States such as the scarce interconnection of the islands -as is the case of Malta-, the problem of synchronization of the electrical network of the Baltic countries -still connected to the Russian infrastructure- or the gas storage capacity of each Member State.
Diplomatic sources have explained that the intention is not to dilute that 15% but rather to attend to the specificities of certain Member States such as the geographical limitations and interconnectionHowever, the reduction of the objective in certain countries will not imply that it must be compensated by others.
Last week, the Third Vice President and Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera, indicated that she “does not support” the Brussels proposal, considering the cut in gas consumption “a disproportionate sacrifice”, and argued that “a difference than other countries, we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means from an energy point of view“.
The options that Spain is considering
Thus, Spain will put on the table the gas interconnection with Francethat the underground gas storage levels are at levels higher than the EU average or that the storage capacity of liquefied natural gas (LNG) accounts for a third of the EU’s regasification capacity.
A rejection that not only Spain has expressed, but also Portugal, Poland, Greece or Hungary and to which France has already expressed its support. In this framework, the regulation proposal of the Community Executive must be supported by a qualified majority in the Council to move forward, which implies the support of 15 Member States representing at least 65% of the EU population.
Who should declare the ‘European alert’?
In another step, the Twenty-seven will exchange points of view on if it is the European Commission that must declare the “European alert”with the support of a qualified majority of the Council represented by 15 EU countries, as proposed in last week’s communication, or whether it should be the initiative of the Council, with a minimum of five Member States, that should promote the declaration of “European alert”, as proposed by the Twenty-seven.
In addition, the energy ministers will analyze how to improve the protection of vulnerable consumerssuch as homes, health, educational or security centers, measures to ensure energy supply and solidarity between Member States.
A Greek proposalthe holders of the Energy portfolio will address the establishment of limits on the price of gas in the wholesale electricity market and the reform of the electricity market.
In addition, the Minister of Energy of Ukraine, German Galushchenko, will participate in the meeting in person to address how energy security could be strengthened in the electricity and gas markets in the country.
Last week, the Community Executive asked the countries of the European Union to voluntarily cut their gas consumption by 15% between August 1 this year and March 31 this year to achieve a reduction of 45,000 million cubic meters of gas to guarantee supply.
In addition, Brussels wants to be able to compulsorily impose in the event of an alert for the security of supply and that tries to avoid Russian “blackmail” in relation to gassomething that would require the support of the Council by qualified majority, in the event of shortages or exceptionally high demand.