The regulation was published this Monday, establishing the strategy to reduce gas consumption by up to 15% in the European Union until March 31, 2023. As of tomorrow, August 9, Member States will have to start tightening the “energy belt” to ensure that Europe has enough gas reserves to face the coming winter.
The text determining the standards for saving gas in the European Union was published in the Official Journal of the EU and enters into force the next day, that is, tomorrow.
The proposal was approved by the European Council, with 25 votes in favor and two against (Hungary and Poland), after the first version of the plan put forward by the European Commission under Ursula von der Leyen was strongly criticized by a majority of States. members, who accused the initial strategy of being a “one size fits all” solution and that it did not take into account the specificities of the countries, such as gas connections to other Member States and the greater need for gas due to the drought situation that cuts hydroelectric production capacity.
The text begins by stating that “the Russian Federation, the Union’s main external gas supplier, has initiated a military aggression against Ukraine, a contracting party to the Energy Community”, which summarizes the driving force of the measure approved by almost all the States. members.
In 2021, the EU was dependent on around 40% of gas from Russia, so the profound changes in the geopolitical context led the bloc of 27 to look for new ways to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from using gas as a tool. of blackmail against European leaders, in an attempt to ease or fully lift the sanctions that Brussels launched against Moscow in the wake of the war launched against Ukraine on 24 February.
Already several cities across Europe have decided to turn off street lighting that they consider non-essential and some countries have plans to reactivate coal-fired power plants to try to minimize the impacts of the shortage of Russian natural gas. However, the European Commission, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, have already warned that these measures – contradict energy transition strategies and divert countries from meeting the environmental goals established for 2030 and 2050 – should merely be temporary.
Within the EU, gas does not prevent the achievement of the ecological goals set, as it has recently been classified as a source of renewable energy in the European taxonomy, despite criticism from environmental movements that have already accused Brussels of distorting plans for the abandonment of fossil fuels. .
Thus, the text now published and which will enter into force tomorrow sets out “the rules to respond to a situation of serious difficulties in gas supply, with a view to guaranteeing the security of gas supply in the Union, in a spirit of solidarity”, can be read in the document.
Under that regulation, Member States, on a voluntary basis, undertake to make “all efforts to, between 1 August 2022 and 31 March 2023, reduce gas consumption by at least 15%”. compared to its average consumption of gas in the period between 1 August and 31 March during the five consecutive years prior to the entry into force of this Regulation (‘voluntary demand reduction’)”.
However, the reduction could become mandatory “if the Council declares a Union alert”, which would mean that “during the duration of the Union alert, gas consumption in each Member State in the period between 1 August 2022 and 31 March 2023 (‘reduction period’) must be 15% lower than your reference gas consumption”.
Still, there are exceptions. For example, “a Member State is exempted [from the mandatory reduction] as long as it is not directly interconnected to an interconnected gas network of any other Member State”. This should be the case for Portugal.
The same exceptional regime should apply to “a Member State whose electricity grid is synchronized only with the electricity grid of a third country”.
The new regulation justifies the inclusion of the mandatory reduction clause as follows: “In order to be able to respond promptly to the specific challenges posed by the current shortage of gas supply and the strong aggravation of the same that is foreseen, as well as to avoid distortions between the Member States, a new instrument should be established introducing the possibility of a mandatory reduction in gas demand for all Member States”.
However, it is ensured that “a Union alert should only be declared [which activates the mandatory reduction mechanism] if it is found that the voluntary demand reduction measures are insufficient to face the risk of serious shortages in supply”.
Source: With Agencies