EU reaches deal on slashing gas consumption

Non-exempted member states will voluntarily reduce usage by 15%

EU energy ministers have agreed on an unprecedented plan that will see member states voluntarily slash their gas consumption by 15% from August until next spring. The deal comes with exemptions for some countries.

“This was not a Mission Impossible! Ministers have reached a political agreement on gas demand reduction ahead of the upcoming winter.” The Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union announced on Twitter on Tuesday.

The plan opens the door for gas rationing across the EU, which will affect industries but exclude households and essential services like schools and hospitals, unless the situation worsens dramatically.

In the event of a supply emergency, such as a complete cut-off of the natural gas flow from Russia, the voluntary cuts will become mandatory under an innovative “Union Alert” system.

The plan comes with exemptions, and according to Spanish broadcaster La Sexta, Spain and Portugal were not happy about the deal and negotiated a 7% cut instead of 15%. Some other exceptions have been made for island nations, Malta, Cyprus and Ireland, and the Baltic states. According to Reuters, Hungary also opposed the deal.

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© Getty Images / Monty Rakusen
EU gas prices surge amid fears of Russian supply cuts

Gazprom plans to switch off a second turbine at the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany on Wednesday, citing technical regulations that require the part to be overhauled. That will reduce the flow of gas to Germany to 20% of the pipeline’s capacity.

The turbine has to be repaired as it’s a matter of safety, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday. The EU could receive full volumes of Russian gas via the alternative new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, which is ready to go, Lavrov added. Germany, however, has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of using that route.

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