EU plan to cut winter gas use by 15 per cent comes into force

New law anticipates that Russia could completely cut off gas deliveries to Europe

The EU is planning to slash its gas consumption to head off Russian energy cuts. Reuters
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A law to usher in drastic energy savings by the EU will come into force on Tuesday, in its latest move to prepare for a Russian-induced gas crisis this winter.

The 10-page regulation was published on Monday after final approval by the EU's 27 member states of the plan to reduce gas consumption by 15 per cent between August and March.

The final package is a compromise in which the cuts are initially voluntary and could become mandatory if enough countries request it. A number of members, including island states, can claim exemptions.

The aim is to stop an economic crisis unfolding if Russia's gas supplies, currently at about 30 per cent of their typical levels, are not enough to meet peak winter demand.

Some countries, including Germany and Austria, are particularly exposed, although both are reporting progress in filling up their gas storage tanks before winter.

Germany has had deliveries through its main Russian pipeline cut to about 20 per cent of capacity, for reasons which the Kremlin says are technical but Berlin sees as spurious.

German Chancellor OIaf Scholz said last week that there was no reason for Russia not to increase gas supplies to Europe. Reuters

"The recent escalation of disruption of gas supply from Russia points to a significant risk that a complete halt of Russian gas supplies may materialise in the near future, in an abrupt and unilateral way," the law's explanatory notes said.

"The union should therefore anticipate such a risk and prepare, in a spirit of solidarity, for the possibility of a full disruption of gas supply from Russia at any moment. Co-ordinated action at union level can avoid serious harm to the economy and to citizens resulting from a possible gas supply interruption."

Only Hungary voted against the final package after member states prised the power to make the cuts mandatory away from the European Commission in Brussels.

Some Russian supplies have been replaced by pipeline imports from Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan and liquid gas shipments from the US and other countries.

In the longer run, the EU plans to generate more renewable energy within its own borders and increase connections between energy-rich members and more import-reliant states.

Updated: August 08, 2022, 3:13 PM
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