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EU plans gas cuts to save up for winter

The European Union on Wednesday set out emergency plans for countries to cut their gas use by 15 percent until March, warning them that without deep cuts now, they could struggle during winter if Russia cuts off supply.

Europe is racing to fill its gas storage ahead of winter and build up emergency supplies in case Moscow further restricts gas deliveries in retaliation for European support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. A dozen EU countries are already facing reduced Russian deliveries, and EU officials say a full Russian gas halt is likely.

The European Commission proposed a voluntary target for all EU countries to cut gas use by 15 percent from August to March, compared with their average consumption in the same period during 2016-2021.

Russia is weaponising its gas supplies.

We need to prepare now for further disruptions – including for a complete stop of Russian gas deliveries.

Today we present the “Save gas for a safe winter” package. It will help us to save 15% of annual gas consumption. ⬇️

— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) July 20, 2022

The proposal would enable Brussels to make the target mandatory in a supply emergency – if the EU declares a substantial risk of severe gas shortages.

Approval needed

The regulation needs approval from a reinforced majority of EU countries. EU diplomats are set to discuss it on Friday, with the aim of approving it at an emergency meeting of energy ministers from around the bloc.

The plan has already hit resistance from some countries, which feel their contingency plans do not need a boost from the EU. Among those opposed to mandatory EU targets is Poland, which has filled its gas storage to 98 percent of capacity after Russia cut its gas supply in April. Others struggle to fill their storage capacity, Hungary for example, is at 47 percent.

🔴 LIVE: “Save gas for a safe winter” package

Follow the press conference by President @vonderleyen, Executive Vice-President @TimmermansEU and Commissioners @ThierryBreton and @KadriSimson.

— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) July 20, 2022

Households not affected by Russian gas cuts

The International Monetary Fund last week warned a Russian gas cut could plunge European economies into recession, heightening a gas crisis that has sent consumer bills soaring.

Gazprom looking for excuse not to resume gas supplies to Germany: daily

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Moscow supplied 40 percent of the EU’s gas before its invasion of Ukraine, but flows of Russian gas have since fallen below 30 percent of the 2016-2021 average.

Brussels suggested measures that governments can take to curb gas use, including auctions for compensation to industries that cut gas use and limits on heating and cooling temperatures in public buildings. Governments should also decide the order in which they would force industries to close in a supply emergency. Households are classed as “protected consumers” under EU rules and would be shielded from such curbs.

Nord Stream 1 saga continues

Gas deliveries are due to restart through Russia’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany on Thursday, after annual maintenance. Sources told Reuters that flows would likely resume, despite some governments’ fears they would not, but at below full capacity.

Russia halted gas shipments through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on July 11, explaining that maintenance work was needed. However, the country’s energy giant Gazprom has put a big question mark over the pipeline’s restart, reporting that a turbine, its crucial element serviced in Canada, has still not arrived in Russia.

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