The EU Commission released its official proposal late Wednesday, July 20th, to be granted emergency powers that would allow it to impose gas rationing and redistribution across the block, starting this fall, extending into the next two years.
If passed by the Council, it would require member states to voluntarily reduce gas use by 15%. The new law would enable the Commission the power to issue a “Union Alert” that would trigger mandatory gas reduction at its discretion in consultation with member states, or set off the alert at the request of three member states.
Countries would be required to submit a gas savings plan to the Commission by September, showing how they intend to meet the reductions and update the Commission every two months on their progress.
“The European Union faces the risk of further gas supply cuts from Russia, due to the Kremlin’s weaponization of gas exports, with almost half of our member states already affected by reduced deliveries,” the Commission explained in a memo. “Taking action now can reduce both the risk and the costs for Europe in case of further or full disruption, strengthening European energy resilience.”
The Commission wants to make member states save gas and then be able to redistribute the block’s overall supply, with an eye toward the possibility of Russia cutting off Europe’s gas supplies.
“The amount of the recommended demand reduction should consider the volumes of gas demand which would be at risk of non-delivery in case of a full disruption of Russian gas supplies. The volume of the reduction should be distributed amongst all member states, based on a comparison with their average consumption over the last 5 years,” the proposal reads.
The text also states: “this proposal therefore reflects the principle of energy solidarity, which has recently been confirmed by the Court of Justice as a fundamental principle of EU law. Member states which make all efforts to cope with the gas shortage within their territory should be entitled to fully benefit from the energy solidarity of their neighbours.”
In the event of mandatory gas rationing, countries could apply for an exemption and reduce gas usage by 5% instead of 15%, granted according to circumstance. One of the criteria is the ability of the country to share its saved gas with neighbouring states. The Commission recognizes that between some countries, little infrastructure exists for transferring gas, making such solidarity logistically difficult. These countries could be exempt from the 15% gas reduction.
Countries requesting gas would also have to show that they had already taken all possible measures to reduce gas demand.
The proposal also allows member states to incentivize voluntary reduction for businesses, like paying industries to use less gas.
The proposal qualifies as a Council Regulation under Article 122, a provision in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It requires the Council’s approval by a qualified majority to become law.
The measure could be approved within days, as an extraordinary Energy Council meeting is set for July 26th.