On Wednesday 28 May EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger presented the European Commission’s new “European Energy Security Strategy” to journalists in Brussels. Hastily put together in the two months since heads of state and government ordered it at their March summit, it is nonetheless a comprehensive 24-page document complete with a 200-page back-up report. It will go directly to heads of state and government at their next summit on 26-27 June, to be discussed in tandem with the 2030 climate and energy proposals. Energy Post sums up the take-home messages:
1. Energy efficiency is the first line of defence
The Ukraine crisis has catapulted energy efficiency back up the political agenda. “Now more than ever, energy efficiency, energy savings need to be our first response to energy import dependence,” said Oettinger on 28 May. He went on to announce that the Commission would complete its review of current EU energy efficiency policy by summer and that he hoped to propose a new energy efficiency strategy for 2030 in September.
Member states have long opposed a binding target for efficiency, but in response to a journalist’s question Mr Oettinger answered: “Yes, it would be appropriate to propose a binding energy efficiency target.” He refused to say at what level this should be set. Meanwhile, the new security of supply strategy gives few details of what’s to come. It does say that energy demand in buildings, which accounts for about a third of natural gas use, “could be cut by up to three quarters if the renovation of buildings is speeded up”.
2. The EU should carry out gas security “stress tests” ahead of next winter
The Commission wants to assess the risk of gas supply disruptions at regional – and ideally EU – level. It plans to simulate a disruption and check how the energy system copes. Based on that, the Commission wants to develop emergency plans and back-up mechanisms such as increasing gas stocks, developing reverse flow options, reducing energy demand, and switching to alternative fuels (for heating in particular). Priorities for the stress tests will be the six member states 100% dependent on Russian gas (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia), plus high-volume importers such as Germany.
3. Brussels may look into regulating gas storage as a strategic resource
The Commission will review the Security of Gas Supply Regulation adopted in the aftermath of the gas crises of 2006 and 2009, by the end of this year. The regulation already requires suppliers to provide 30 days back-up supply capacity. The review may suggest developing a regulatory framework for gas storage that recognises its strategic importance for energy security and a more precise, EU-wide definition of “protected customers” – these are customers (often households) whose gas supplies are guaranteed in times of disruption.
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