Image Source: Pledge Times
To avoid a significant supply shock this winter, the EU has agreed to regulate its natural gas. But by giving nations a large amount of latitude, the union has scaled back its goals.
The voluntary goal to cut gas use by 15% between August and March 2023 was accepted by EU energy ministers on Tuesday. This decrease is evaluated in comparison to the average gas consumption of each nation for the same months over the previous five years.
Last week, the EU Commission released its “Save Gas for a Safe Winter” plan, which includes the 15% objective. The plan also includes a proposal for a new law that, if approved, would give the EU Commission the authority to compel states to fulfill mandatory reduction targets in extreme circumstances.
However, in response to complaints from a few nations during the past several days, the bloc was forced to make significant concessions, taking into consideration the various degrees of gas dependence and storage capacities of the member nations.
As they “would not be able to free up considerable volumes of pipeline gas to the benefit of other member states,” the EU Council, the bloc’s political union, said in a press statement, those nations will no longer be subject to the mandated 15% demand reduction objective.
The Council also provided details on a number of scenarios that might permit the modification of the reduction target, such as those in which states exceed their gas storage goals or are disproportionately dependent on gas for vital power industries.
The idea still needs to be approved by at least 15 of the bloc’s 27 members, which together make up 65 percent of its entire population.
The bloc will have to vote separately on the Commission’s plan to impose mandatory reduction targets.
Bad timing by the EU
The very real possibility that Moscow could shut off the supply has spurred the EU to look for alternative energy sources and quickly restock its gas storage facilities in time for the coming winter.
Many EU nations that have long relied on Moscow’s supplies to power their homes and industries will find it challenging to gradually reduce their imports of Russian gas.
According to the International Energy Agency, the country supplied over 45% of the bloc’s total gas imports in 2021.
It has advanced significantly already. By increasing its liquefied natural gas imports and promising to reduce its consumption of Russian gas by 66% before the end of the year, the EU is already taking swift action to lessen its reliance on Moscow.
However, a historic heatwave last week that caused temperatures to exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions of the continent has increased demand for air conditioning.
The demand for natural gas to produce electricity reached a new record of 800-gigawatt hours earlier this month, according to Enagas, the operator of Spain’s gas transmission system.
The ability of Europe to fill its stocks before temperatures begin to fall in a few months may be seriously hampered by high gas demand and significantly reduced Russian shipments.
By November, the bloc wants member states to fill at least 80% of their gas tanks.
According to Gas Infrastructure Europe, they are now about 67 percent full. That’s a significant increase over the same period last year.
Nevertheless, last week, Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, called the situation in Europe “perilous” and advised it to get ready for a “long, terrible winter.”
Even if European nations are able to fill their gas reserves to 90% of their maximum levels, the IEA warns that if Russia decides to stop delivering gas starting in October, there will likely be supply interruptions early the following year.
Opinions expressed by California Gazette contributors are their own.