The European Parliament in Strasbourg on September 12 approved new cooperation rules to safeguard the security of gas supply. A EU country facing an urgent gas shortage can trigger cross-border assistance from its neighbours, according to the regulation approved by 567 votes to 101 against, with 23 abstentions.
“The new Regulation will strengthen regional cooperation in emergency planning and crisis prevention, and make gas contracts more transparent,” said rapporteur Jerzy Buzek from Poland.
“Sufficient gas supply for households, district heating and essential social services such as hospitals take priority. A member state can activate the solidarity mechanism and call on other member states to help tackle a severe crisis, MEPs said.
The new rules establish four “risk groups” of member states, which will take part in “risk associated cooperation” and undertake joint risk assessments and joint preventive and emergency measures.
There will be three energy supply crisis levels – early warning, alert, and emergency – which member states can declare by informing the European Commission and the competent authorities in their risk groups and in adjacent member states.
The European Commission will have the right to request access to any gas supply contracts important for security of supply (representing 28% of the annual gas consumption in the member state), MEPs said. The Commission can also ask for the details of other commercial agreements that are relevant to set up the gas supply contract, including gas infrastructure contracts.
“Our citizens must never be left without gas flowing to their homes,” Buzek said.
Once endorsed by Council, the revised Security of Gas Supply Regulation will be published in the Official Journal of the Union and enters into force 20 days after publication.
The Commission welcomed the strong support by the European Parliament on September 12 to the new security of gas supply regulation. European Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič reminded that energy security is one of the key elements of the Energy Union. “In this context, solidarity, closer regional cooperation and greater transparency of gas contracts were at the heart of our strategy. Therefore, I welcome today’s vote by the European Parliament. We have delivered on the promise to our citizens that they do not need to fear to be left in the cold in the future, while the industry kept on hold,” Šefčovič said.
For his part, Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said the vote on September 12 by the European Parliament strengthens the energy security in Europe and increases solidarity and cooperation between Member States. “With the new rules, we are better equipped to prevent and handle potential gas crises. This makes us more effective, secures our energy supply and reduces costs for consumers,” Cañete said.
The EU imports two-thirds of its natural gas, either through pipelines or by ships via LNG terminals. More than one-third of it comes from Russia, followed by Norway, Algeria and Qatar. A majority of EU countries are totally or almost totally dependent on imports for their demand of gas and one supplier, such as Russia, dominates supplies in some EU member states.
Reliance on a single source or a single transportation route can pose a danger to supplies, whether because of a technical accident or political and economic disputes such as the ones between Russia and Ukraine – a transit country for Russian gas to the EU – over energy prices in 2006 and 2009 that disrupted supplies to several European countries.