Russia has already suspended gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria because they refused to pay roubles. The same threatens all European countries. The EU is therefore asking countries to share gas if Russia stops supplying it. The Spanish newspaper El País has now published the contents of a leaked document.
EU wants to shut down industry first in case of gas shortage
The European Commission plans to approve an energy-saving plan on 18 May to deal with a possible sudden disruption of Russian gas supplies. Brussels warns that in an emergency the measures will affect almost all EU partners. Even countries with other sources of supply than Russia would have to share their gas with the countries affected by the cut. In addition, Brussels is calling for energy rationing to start with industry. Companies in a country with full supply should not have a competitive advantage over countries affected by a limitation by Moscow.
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States can introduce their own gas supply contingency plans
Brussels will use the Security of Supply Regulation, in place since 2017, to enforce measures to ensure the supply of sufficient gas to protected customers, such as private households and social institutions in all countries. Each affected country can declare a state of emergency and introduce its own rationing rules at national level, according to the regulations. In addition, countries with supply problems can invoke the solidarity clause provided for in the Community regulation. This could force their neighbours to meet their needs.
If several states are affected, EU wants to intervene
However, it is up to the European Commission to declare a regional emergency if several countries are affected, or at the level of the entire Union if the gas supply crisis spreads to several countries in the EU
European sources predict that in case of a full Russian gas cut, the containment measures foreseen in the regulation will have to be taken in almost all EU countries. “In some, because the cut will affect them directly. And in others because they will be forced to reduce industrial consumption to help their neighbours,” these sources warn.
EU wants to force states to help other states with gas supplies
Brussels has the task of checking whether the solidarity clause is being applied correctly. In doing so, the EU wants to check to what extent the individual countries are fulfilling their obligations to support the other community partners. In the case of supply problems, the first measures would still be voluntary. Consumption is then to be reduced in the industrial sector first. However, in an emergency, the states can impose rationing or suspension of supplies. Both to meet the demand of their own customers and to help other countries meet the demand of the same type of customers.
Gas-fired power generation gets priority over industry
In addition, priority will be given to the use of gas for power generation. “States are asking us to come up with a coordinated plan to decide jointly and uniformly which industries are affected by possible rationing and to avoid creating a competition problem between them,” European Commission sources stress. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is expected to ensure a level playing field. The first expected restriction would be to force countries to curb consumption. This would occur when demand is above the usual average at the relevant time of year. To avoid this shortage scenario, the European Union has launched a frantic race to find alternatives to its previous main Russian energy supplier. Brussels recognises, however, that it will be virtually impossible in the short term to replace all of Russia’s substantial supply this year. This is especially true in the gas market.
EU believes it can replace two thirds of Russian gas
Of the 155,000 million cubic metres that arrive from Russia every year, the commission believes it can replace two-thirds. This would mean a shortfall of about 50,000 million cubic metres. This corresponds to the annual consumption of Romania, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And Germany alone needs about 90 billion cubic metres annually. The EU Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, has already called on the 27 EU governments to update their emergency plans.
Brussels expects delivery stops for further countries
Poland, with a consumption of 20,000 million cubic metres per year, and Bulgaria, with 3,000 million, were the first two countries to have their gas cut off by Putin on 27 April because they refused to pay in Russian currency. This could soon affect other European countries. Brussels suspects that more countries could join the Kremlin’s blacklist in the coming weeks and months.
EU calls on private households to save energy
The Commission’s plans will also include recommendations to limit private consumption of all types of energy. Even if the application and control is the responsibility of national or local authorities. In Germany and Italy, there have been endless calls for savings in recent weeks. Economics Minister Habeck has already made concrete proposals in this regard.