The EU Agreed to Gas Rationing in Winter

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To avoid a catastrophic supply shock this winter, the EU has agreed to regulate its natural gas supplies. But, by giving countries a lot of room to maneuver, the bloc has scaled back its goals.

Energy ministers from the EU came to an informal agreement on Tuesday to cut gas consumption by 15% from August to March 2023. This decrease is compared to the average gas usage for each nation for the preceding five years for the same months.

The EU Commission introduced the 15% goal last week as part of its “Save Gas for a Safe Winter” strategy, which also included a proposal for a new rule that, if approved, would grant the EU Commission the authority to compel governments to fulfill mandatory reduction targets in extraordinary situations.

However, the EU has been forced to make important compromises as a result of protests from several nations over the previous few days, taking into consideration their various degrees of storage and gas dependency.

As they “would not be able to free up significant volumes of pipeline gas to the benefit of other member states,” the EU Council, the bloc’s political union, stated in a press release, countries that are not connected to other members’ gas networks will now be exempt from the mandatory demand reduction target of 15%.

The Council also provided a variety 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 to power essential industries.

At least 15 of the bloc’s 27 members, or 65 percent of its entire population, must still ratify the plans in order for them to become a part of the law.

Separately, the bloc will require a different vote to approve the Commission’s plan to impose mandatory reduction objectives.

The EU got it’s timing wrong 

The very real possibility that Moscow could turn off the taps has fueled the bloc’s search for other energy sources and accelerated the filling of its gas storage facilities in time for the upcoming winter.

Many EU nations that have historically relied on Moscow’s supplies to power their homes and factories will gradually find it difficult to reduce their imports of Russian gas.

Approximately 45% of the bloc’s total gas imports were made by this nation in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.

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Already, it has come a long way. With increased liquefied natural gas imports and a commitment to cut its reliance on Russian gas by 66 percent before the year’s end, the EU is already taking swift action to lessen its reliance on Moscow.

But a historic heatwave that reached temperatures beyond 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions of the continent last week has increased demand for air conditioning.

Enagas, the operator of Spain’s gas transmission system, reported earlier this month that the amount of natural gas needed to generate 800-gigawatt hours of power had reached a new high.

The capacity of Europe to replenish its supplies before the onset of winter in a few months may be seriously hampered by high gas demand and significantly reduced Russian flows.

By November, the union expects gas tanks in its members’ states to be at least 80% full.

As of right now, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe, they are about 67 percent full. That is far greater than it was at this time last year.

Nevertheless, Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, warned this week that the situation in Europe was “perilous” and that it needed to get ready for a “long, terrible winter.”

The IEA claims that if Russia decides to stop gas deliveries starting in October, supply interruptions are still likely to occur early the following year, even if European countries fill their gas stockpiles to 90% of their maximum capacity.

Opinions expressed by San Francisco Post contributors are their own.

Anthony Carter

I’m Anthony and I finished my degree graduate studies on Public Administration and I spend most of my free time in contributing written works about community development, public administration and lifestyle.

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