Energy crisis: European Union unveils winter plan | War in Ukraine

Energy crisis: European Union unveils winter plan | War in Ukraine

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Moscow's cut in gas supply is worrying countries in the European Union, where the idea of ​​rationing measures is getting closer.

Limiting the heating of certain buildings, postponing the planned closure of nuclear power plants, encouraging companies to reduce their consumption… Brussels unveils its plan on Wednesday to get through the winter and overcome the fall Russian gas deliveries.

We are preparing for any eventuality, be it serious disruptions or a total disruption of Russian gas supplies […] If the worst does happen, we will have to be ready, had declared in early July in Strasbourg the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

The European executive presented a strategy in the spring to free itself from Russian hydrocarbons. The plan, called RePowerEU, aimed to impose on states a minimum filling of gas reserves, to diversify sources of supply, and to promote renewable energies.

Wednesday's announcements will target a reduction in demand.

Despite a swell in imports from Norway, Azerbaijan or Algeria, non-Russian gas resources are simply not going to be enough to replace supplies from Russia, the director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol.

The arsenal of measures proposed by Brussels therefore aims to reduce annual gas consumption in the EU by around 25 to 60 billion m3 , according to a draft text seen by AFP. For comparison, Russia had supplied in 2020 some 153 billion m3 to the Twenty-Seven, or 40% of their gas imports.

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In detail, 11 billion m3 would come from a reduction in the heating or air conditioning of buildings, between 4 and 40 billion m3 would be saved on the combustion of gas for the production of electricity, and 10 to 11 billion on industrial demand which has already faltered under the effect of soaring prices.

Brussels must in particular ask the States to adopt binding measures to limit heating to 19 degrees and air conditioning to 25 degrees in public and commercial buildings, where technically feasible.

In addition, significant savings can be made by deploying alternative heat sources for district heating and heat pumps in private homes, while communication campaigns should encourage households to reduce the thermostat by one degree this winter, the document adds.

Protected customers (households, social services, SMEs, whose supply is guaranteed by European legislation) represent less than 37% of total gas consumption.

The Commission therefore wants to particularly target electricity production and industry, which consume a lot of energy.

In its project, Brussels proposes to the States to switch to nuclear power where it is a conceivable option, and asks the countries wishing to give up the civil atom to postpone their plans to close nuclear power plants.

And to minimize interruptions to gas-fired power plants, diesel-powered backup generators will need to be able to take over for at least five days.

For manufacturers, the text recalls the existence of alternatives to polluting energies: switch to biomass or biomethane, electrification of certain machines…

Brussels is proposing to the Twenty-Seven to set up auction systems which would offer companies compensation in exchange for a reduction in their consumption.

Even for sectors with little leeway to do without gas, such as chemicals which use it as a raw material, it would be much less costly to moderately reduce the demand gradually rather than waiting to be hit by a sudden supply disruption, the Commission believes.

This plan, which will be discussed on July 26 by EU energy ministers, comes at a critical time.

The Nord Stream gas pipeline, through which passes a third of Russian gas deliveries to the EU, has been closed since July 11 for routine maintenance which must be completed. ;complete this Thursday, but the Europeans fear that Moscow will not reopen the tap. In previous weeks, Russia had already cut 60% of its shipments via Nord Stream.

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