Gazprom reported to have shut down another turbine, reducing gas flow to Europe even further today: can European countries still balk at reducing consumption?

Brussels’ ‘save gas’ emergency plan shows signs of softening

Just as Gazprom shuts down another turbine…

Brussels’ unpopular ‘save gas emergency plan’ is showing signs of softening, says Spanish daily El Pais, just as Russia appears to be flexing its muscles again…

Following widespread opposition – not least from Portugal and Spain – tweaks to the plan looked early today like they would be extending Member States a greater degree of freedom.

Spanish daily El Pais said the proposal for countries to reduce consumption by 15% remains, but introduces various exceptions and adjustments, to adapt savings to the energetic necessities of each country.

As environment minister Duarte Cordeiro explained very emphatically last week, Portugal has no leeway whatsoever to reduce gas consumption as the drought has decimated production of hydropower, and wind energy output is also well down on last year. 

The European Gas Demand Reduction Plan has been devised as a way of Europe ‘preparing itself’ in case Russia pulls the plug on gas exports during the winter to try and force Europe’s hand over sanctions imposed following its invasion of Ukraine.

Ursula Von der Leyen announced the proposal, suggesting countries start reducing consumption by 15% as of August 1, running to March 31 next year.

The plan hinges on Brussels’ eventual decree of a State of Emergency (if Russia does indeed cut supplies). But this decree, in the original proposal, was to have been ‘an absolute power’. Now, says El Pais, the Commission has come round to accepting that it would have to be put to a vote before being triggered.

The plan is coming up for discussion in Brussels tomorrow – with the Czech Republic, currently presiding over the rotating council of the EU – having been in “enforced marathons” of negotiations since last Wednesday, trying to find a text that will satisfy all 27 Member States.

A number of eastern European countries are against the original proposal for their own reasons, but Portugal, Spain and Greece are adamant that it cannot work for southern countries that have no connection with European gas pipelines, and are hamstrung by serious situations of drought which have drastically reduced the production of hydro power.

Meantime, as these stories appear so too has the warning from the International Energy Agency stressing Europe really has no choice but to accept a reduction in gas consumption.

In a statement, executive director Fatih Birol said “the world is going through the first real global energy crisis in history”; the next few months will be critical: “no one in Europe or anywhere else can have any illusions over the risks around the supply of Russian energy…

Just after 3pm today various tweets appeared suggesting Russian energy company Gazprom has just halted another engine at its Nord Stream 1 pipeline – meaning daily gas flows are declining further (than they have already). The price of gas instantly started rising.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com