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15th Aug 2022

EU Commission set to unveil gas-reduction plan

  • The new 'demand-reduction plan' comes amid concerns over gas flow disruptions via the Nord Stream 1 (Photo: Jasmine Halki)
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The European Commission will present on Wednesday (20 July) a new plan to reduce gas consumption by industry and consumers in a bid to prepare for "a likely deterioration" — or a full cut-off of Russian gas flows this winter.

Gas flows from Russia to the Baltic countries, Poland, Bulgaria, and Finland have completely stopped, while supply to Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Italy has been recently reduced — prompting the EU executive to argue that "there is no reason to believe this pattern will change".

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A complete halt of Russian gas supplies could materialise later this year in "an abrupt and unilateral way," according to the leaked draft seen by EUobserver.

But the supply reduction has already led to record-high and volatile energy prices, fuelling inflation and creating a risk of further economic downturn in Europe, reads the document. Overall flows from Russia are now less than 30 percent of the average of 2016-2021.

The plan highlights that "large savings" can be achieved by deploying campaigns targeting households to decrease the thermostat by one degree and wherever feasible, reduce the heating of public buildings, offices, and commercial buildings to 19 degrees Celsius.

Buildings in the EU are responsible for 40 percent of the bloc's energy consumption but public authorities can lead by example as an important gas consumer.

The commission will also call on EU member states to consider using other fuels for electricity generation, such as coal and nuclear power.

But it acknowledges that these "temporary" measures may also have an impact on air pollution, and, therefore, be designed in a way that does not compromise the bloc's medium-term decarbonisation objectives and transition in the coal regions.

Under its 'Save Gas for a Safe Winter' plan, the commission will suggest to EU member states a voluntary 15-percent cut in natural gas use starting already next month, Bloomberg reported.

In May, the EU pledged to reduce its imports of Russian gas by two-thirds this year and phase out its energy trade with Moscow by 2027, at the earliest. Efforts to reduce the EU's addition to Russian gas include having a common purchase of gas, diversification of gas supplies and securing adequate gas storage levels.

But experts previously warned that a full cut-off of gas imports from Russia could only be met by reducing EU gas demand.

Earlier this month, the Brussels-based think tank Breugel calculated that a total demand reduction over the next 10 months of about 15 percent compared to average demand in 2019-2021 would be needed to compensate for a complete stopping of Russian pipeline imports.

The new "demand reduction plan" comes amid concerns over gas flow disruptions via the Nord Stream 1 — a pipeline connecting Russia with Germany which accounts for more than a third of Russian natural gas exports to the bloc.

Russian energy giant Gazprom has reduced natural gas shipments to 40 percent capacity last month, citing maintenance problems. But gas flows are expected to be restarted on Thursday (21 July), according to Reuters.

EU ministers struggle over 15% gas-cut plan

The meeting comes as the Russian state-controlled Gazprom announced that supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany would drop to just 20 percent of capacity, starting Wednesday.

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