Ursula van der Leyen and European Commission Vice President Franz Timmermans in Brussels on July 20, 2022. (AFP / John THYS)
Brussels proposed a plan on Wednesday to cut European gas demand by 15% to curb the heating of some buildings, postpone the shutdown of nuclear power plants and encourage companies to reduce their demand… to offset a drop in Russian supplies.
In order to get through the winter without a major disaster, the European Commission has prepared an arsenal of measures that will allow twenty-seven to face a possible distortion in Russian supplies – which accounted for 40% of their imports last year.
“Russia is using gas as a weapon. In case of a complete disruption, Europe must be ready,” confirmed Ursula van der Leyen, head of the European administration.
The Nord Stream gas pipeline, which carries about a third of Russian gas supplies to the EU, has been closed since July 11 for routine maintenance due to close on Thursday, but Moscow has indicated that 20% of the pipeline cannot be reopened. its capacity. Between mid-June and mid-July, Russia has already reduced its exports via Nord Stream by 60%.
Map showing the evolution of gas reserves in Europe on July 17 (AFP/)
The Brussels plan – which has yet to be discussed by member states – provides that each country must do “everything possible” to reduce its gas consumption by at least 15% compared to the average between August 2022 and March 2023. During the same period in the last five years.
States have to outline their road map by the end of September. Some, such as Finland and the Netherlands, have already met the target.
In the event of a “severe deficit risk”, Brussels wants to implement an alert mechanism – after consulting the states – which would make it possible to “bind” the twenty-seventh 15% reduction.
– Act Now –
Commission vice-president Franz Timmermans warned that we must act now to avoid doing so “in an emergency in the most catastrophic circumstances”.
Despite increased imports from Norway, Azerbaijan and Algeria and U.S. liquefied natural gas exports tripling since March, Europeans fear a tough winter ahead.
Ursula von der Leyen during a presentation in Brussels on July 20, 2022 of the EU plan to reduce gas consumption in view of winter (AFP / JOHN THYS)
Ms van der Leyen estimated that annual gas consumption in the EU could be reduced by around 45 billion m3. By comparison, Russia delivered about 153 billion m3 in 2020 to twenty-seven.
About 11 billion m3 could come from reduced heating or air conditioning, control measures for public and commercial buildings, and communication campaigns targeted at households. About 11 billion could be saved by increasing the use of renewable energies and 7.2 billion by reducing industrial consumption, which is already reeling under the effects of rising prices.
“Protected customers” (households, social services, hospitals, SMEs, whose supply is guaranteed) account for less than 37% of total gas consumption. Hence the Commission specifically targets consumption by power plants and industry.
Ursula von der Leyen and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev in Baku on July 18, 2022
For electricity generation, “preference should be given to renewables, but the use of coal, oil or nuclear power may be needed on a temporary basis”, recognizes Brussels, which urges countries that want to give up civilian nuclear to postpone plans to shut down. Nuclear power plants down.
For producers, the text recalls the existence of alternative solutions (biomass or biomethane, electrification of some machinery, etc.) and proposes the establishment of “auction systems” that provide companies with “compensations” in return for consumption reductions. Brussels recommends that sectors that have no room to maneuver without the gas, such as chemicals that use it as raw material, gradually reduce their demand.
The purpose of commissoin is to avoid destruction in case of plant shutdown and complete shutdown of machinery. It also wants to protect the production of essential goods (chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc.).
European employers’ organization BusinessEurope warned on Wednesday that production cuts imposed on companies could have “disastrous economic consequences and an often irreversible impact” and should be “a last resort”.
The Commission’s plan could be vetted by the twenty-seven energy ministers meeting in Brussels on July 26.
“Web specialist. Infuriatingly humble coffee ninja. Wannabe zombie advocate. Subtly charming tv fanatic. Avid social media scholar.”