EU agrees on emergency plan for gas consumption

29 July 2022

On Wednesday, EU’s energy ministers took a step towards limiting gas consumption from Russia and agreed to cut gas use in Europe in the coming months. The new agreement has come about after an extraordinary summit in Brussels and must ensure that the EU has enough gas to get through the winter if Russia shuts off the supply Apart from Hungary, who voted against the new legislative file, there is great European unity to break free from dependence on Russian natural gas.

The content of the final agreement is expected to be presented shortly, but broadly summarised; the EU countries will initially reduce the use of gas by 15 percent on a voluntary basis, in the period from 1 August this year to 31 March next year. Moreover, the EU countries also agreed that an emergency situation – called “union alert” – can be introduced if the situation requires it. Then the reductions become mandatory and will require a vote among the heads of state and government of the EU countries.

However, several exceptions and the possibility of exemption have been introduced. For example, island states such as Ireland, Cyprus and Malta can get away with an eight percent reduction in some cases because they do not have the same opportunity to share their gas with other EU countries.

Coincidingly, on Monday evening this week, the Russian company Gazprom announced that it will reduce the supply of gas via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20 percent of capacity. Delivery had already fallen to 40 percent. The Russians themselves point out, like the first reduction, that this is a necessary maintenance, where a necessary turbine has not yet been installed.

But the decision to reduce the gas supply from Gazprom is politically motivated, said the EU’s Estonian energy commissioner, Kadri Simson. She thus avoids the Russian energy giant, which claims that it is due to the maintenance of a gas turbine. “We know that there is no technical reason to do so. This is a politically motivated step and we have to be ready for that. And exactly for that reason, the preemptive reduction of our gas demand is a wise strategy,” says Simson. Other EU ministers agree, including Robert Habeck, the German Economy Minister: “It’s a very important next step. It shows that Europe stays united, that Europe is able to find unity […] Putin and to Russia: ‘you won’t split us’.”

Now that the agreement is in place, the hard work is yet to come. Frans Timmermans, the Commission Executive Vice President, urged people on Twitter to start saving on gas immediately.