N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
The EU is aiming for a joint 15% reduction of gas consumption during the winter that is coming. At least that was the compelling proposal of the European Commission. But contrary to the proposal , the 27 energy ministers of the EU have decided only to ‘make an effort’ between 1 August and 31 March next year to reach that reduction of 15 percent.
The door is open for member states to be exempt from gas savings or to decide for themselves how much they want to save. Each member state can decide for itself how to deal with a reduction or complete cessation of Russian gas supplies. Countries that are not connected to gas networks, Malta and Cyprus for instance, are anyhow exempt. Countries that can demonstrate that they have replenished their winter stock more than the EU suggest or countries that export a lot of gas to other member states, such as Belgium to France, also receive an exception.
All those exceptions carry the risk that countries will not save enough gas. A note on the wall is that gas consumption across the EU has fallen by only 5 percent in recent warm months, despite rising prices and limited Russian supply.
Russian gas group Gazprom announced last Monday that it will further reduce deliveries via Nord Stream 1, the main pipeline to Europe. The famous Brussels think tank Bruegel recently calculated that the entire EU will be heading for a deficit of 15 percent is Moscow completely turns off the tap.
Winter is coming.