Image Source: Pledge Times
To avoid a significant supply shock, the European Union (EU) has decided to ration its natural gas in winter. However, the group has scaled back its goals by giving nations a sizable amount of flexibility.
European Union energy ministers endorsed a voluntary goal on Tuesday to cut gas consumption by 15% between August and March 2023. This decrease is compared to each nation’s average amount of petrol consumed over the same months during the previous five years.
In its “Save Gas for a Safe Winter” plan, which the EU Commission presented last week, the 15 percent target included a proposal for a new regulation that, if approved, would give the EU Commission the authority to compel nations to fulfill mandatory reduction targets in extreme circumstances.
However, the union has been forced to make significant compromises due to some nations’ objections during the previous few days, taking into consideration their various degrees of storage capacity and dependence on gas.
The European Union Council, the political union of the bloc, announced in a press release that countries that are not connected to other members’ gas networks would no longer be subject to the mandatory 15% demand reduction target. This is because “they would not be able to free up significant volumes of pipeline gas to the benefit of other member states.”
The Council also outlined other instances in which the reduction aim could be relaxed, such as when states exceed their gas storage goals or are disproportionately dependent on gas to vital power industries.
To become a law, the idea still needs to be approved by at least 15 of the bloc’s 27 members, or 65 percent of its entire population.
Separately, the Commission’s plan to impose mandatory reduction objectives will require a different vote from the bloc.
The European Union agreement could have come at a better time
The alliance has been motivated to discover alternative energy sources and quickly fill its gas storage tanks in preparation for winter by the very real possibility that Moscow could cut off the taps.
For many EU nations that have historically relied on Moscow’s supplies to power their homes and industry, reducing imports of Russian gas will be no easy task.
The International Energy Agency estimates that in 2021, the nation will supply around 45% of the bloc’s total gas imports.
It has already advanced significantly. The EU has accelerated the import of liquefied natural gas and promised to lower its consumption of Russian gas by 66 percent before the end of the year in an effort to lessen its reliance on Moscow.
But last week’s record-breaking heatwave, which saw temperatures rise to over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions of the continent, has increased demand for air conditioning.
Enagas, the operator of Spain’s gas transmission system, reported earlier this month that demand for natural gas to generate power had increased to a new high of 800-gigawatt hours.
High gas demand and significantly lower Russian flow rates may make it very difficult for Europe to restock its supplies before the fall season arrives in a few months.
By November, the union wants the gas tanks in its member countries to be at least 80% full. Sixty-seven percent of them are currently filled, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe. More than twice as much as it was at this time last year.
The International Energy Agency’s executive director, Fatih Birol, however, this week referred to the situation in Europe as “perilous” and warned that it must get ready for a “long, terrible winter.”
Even if European nations can fill their gas reserves to 90% of their maximum levels, the IEA predicts that supply interruptions will still occur early in the following year if Russia stops delivering gas starting in October.