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EU prepares for gas emergency

The EU Commission is concerned that the maintenance of the gas pipeline Nord Stream 1 will take longer or that Russian gas could no longer be supplied.

She has drawn up an emergency plan for this, which she is presenting today.

Africa, Latin America, the USA, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar – all over the world, representatives of the EU Commission and European governments are looking for alternatives to Russian gas.

The EU wants to get twice as much from Azerbaijan as before – by 2027 the annual delivery volume is to increase to 20 billion cubic meters. Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen signed the declaration of intent the day before yesterday in the capital Baku: “This will help compensate for supply losses in Russian gas and make a significant contribution to Europe’s security of supply.”

Enormous amounts of gas have to be saved

But according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it will not be enough to replace supplies from Russia – even if you add the quantities from Norway and North Africa and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the rest of the world.

According to the IEA, in order to be prepared in the event that Russia turns off the gas tap completely in the fall, the EU must fill up its storage facilities by 90 percent and save enormous amounts: twelve billion cubic meters in the next three months – enough to fill 130 LNG tankers to fill.

Only heat public buildings to 19 degrees

The EU Commission makes concrete proposals. At noon she will present her emergency plan to prepare member states for an abrupt halt to Russian gas supplies. According to the draft, the impact for the 27 countries depends on how heavily they rely on Russian supplies.

Accordingly, Germany is particularly affected. In order to save gas, Brussels recommends only cooling down public buildings to 25 degrees and heating them to 19 degrees in winter and relying more on district heating or heat pumps.

“Together we will prevail”

According to the Commission, in the event of an acute gas shortage, the member states can regulate in their own emergency plans which areas are to be supplied first. Households that are particularly protected rank at the top. According to the draft, this is followed by certain sectors such as food producers or refineries if they are important for European supply chains.

However, the proposal allows governments to prioritize certain gas-fired power plants even over private consumers if electricity production is at risk. Deputy Commissioner Frans Timmermans appeals to member states not to close themselves off again:

“They tried to do that during the Corona pandemic, and that didn’t work either. We started acting as Europeans once we decided to tackle things together. And the same applies to the energy crisis: together we will prevail , alone we will fail.”

EU states obliged to show solidarity

There is an EU solidarity mechanism for this, which obliges the member states to give gas to partner countries in extreme cases. According to the Federal Network Agency, before a country asks others for help, it must first have taken all measures to supply vulnerable customers itself.

Specifically, this is regulated in intergovernmental agreements. Germany has concluded such agreements with Denmark and Austria and is preparing others. According to its spokesman Eric Mamer, the EU Commission is expecting the worst – that the Russian energy company Gazprom will not resume gas supplies to Europe after maintenance work on the Nord Stream1 pipeline. “We are working with the worst-case scenario. And that assumes that Gazprom no longer supplies any gas to Europe. Our contingency plan for the winter is based on the worst-case scenario.”

But no one knows whether that will happen, says the commission spokesman. The maintenance of Nord Stream 1 is supposed to last ten days and end tomorrow.

The EU is concerned that tensions with Moscow will drag them out, or that no gas could pass through at all. Even before the maintenance, less than half of the ordered quantity flowed through the pipeline.

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