Commission recommends that member states continue saving gas

  • 2024-02-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – The European Commission recommends that member states continue saving gas to secure supplies and stabilize markets.

Gas savings by businesses and citizens across the EU have made an important contribution to tackling the energy crisis, spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine two years ago, the Commission said in a press release.

Collectively, the EU reduced gas demand by 18 percent between August 2022 and December 2023, saving around 101 billion cubic meters of gas. These efforts go above and beyond the 15 percent savings target which was agreed under emergency legislation adopted in Summer 2022, and were essential to preserve stable supplies, stabilize energy markets in the EU, and show solidarity with Ukraine.

Kadri Simson, the EU commissioner for energy, said collective reduction of gas use has been a success and a part of our strategy to tackle the energy crisis.

"The way EU citizens and companies have all contributed to this effort is remarkable. Today, the EU is clearly in a better position than two years ago. Still, uncertainties remain, and we need to do more to fully end our gas imports from Russia. Therefore, I encourage European households and business to keep saving gas whenever possible. This will help us keep our energy bills affordable and economy stronger, while standing by Ukraine as Putin continues his brutal aggression," Simson said according to spokespeople for the Commission.

With the emergency legislation due to expire on March 31, and the situation more stable than it has been for the past two years, the Commission is now proposing the adoption of a Council recommendation on continued gas demand reduction measures. This recommendation, which would need to be adopted by the Council, encourages the member states to continue taking voluntary measures to maintain a collective 15 percent gas demand reduction, compared to the average demand between April 2017 and March 2022.  The proposal will be discussed by Simson and EU energy ministers at the Energy Council on Monday, March 4.

Thanks to the wide range of emergency measures put in place since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EU's energy outlook has improved: supplies are more diversified, more renewable energy capacity has been installed, and impressive energy savings have been made, with gas storages now at a healthier level.

This has served to lower and stabilize prices across Europe. Still, given the persistence of geopolitical tensions, tight global gas markets and the EU's objective to completely get rid of Russian fossil fuels, continued energy savings are still necessary. Continued gas savings will help sustain and improve the current market stability, including by facilitating the refilling of gas storage in Spring and Summer. They would also support the EU's decarbonization efforts, the Commission said.

Tuesday's recommendation is based on the findings of a report reviewing the Gas Demand Reduction Regulation and the second report on the EU's Gas Storage Regulation. On top of guaranteeing security of supply, both measures have contributed to stabilizing energy prices, benefitting the competitiveness of the EU economy and reducing bills for citizens from the peaks seen in August 2022 after the Russian invasion.

As one of the responses to the security of supply risks posed by Russia's weaponization of its fossil fuel exports, the EU introduced the Gas Storage Regulation in June 2022 and the Gas Demand Reduction Regulation in August 2022. Both instruments are key components of REPowerEU, the EU's plan to get rid of Russian fossil fuels through an accelerated deployment of renewables, stronger energy efficiency measures and diversification of energy supplies.

The Gas Storage Regulation required member states to fill underground gas storage facilities to 90 percent capacity by Nov. 1, 2023 in order to be prepared for the winter season. The EU achieved that target already in August and storage was at 99 percent by November.

The Gas Demand Reduction Regulation required member states to reduce gas demand by 15 percent in a coordinated manner, with the target becoming mandatory in case an EU alert would have been declared by the Council following a Commission proposal. Between August 2022 and December 2023, the EU overachieved its target, maintaining a reduction of 18 percent. As an emergency piece of legislation, the Gas Demand Reduction Regulation was extended in March last year until the end of March 2024.