EU states intend to ask for exemptions from plans to reduce gas demand
Several EU countries are planning to ask for exemptions from the bloc's restrictions on gas demand, which are being put in place to mitigate the impact of the sanctions on Russia.
European Union member states are planning to demand exemptions from the European Commission's proposal to ration natural gas and cut demand by 15% during the next eight months, The Financial Times reported on Sunday.
The EU Commission on Wednesday proposed new coordinated measures to reduce gas demand in EU member states, including the introduction of initially voluntary goals to reduce gas demand by 15% between August 1 and March 31, 2023, which amount to a whopping 45 billion cubic meters of gas.
EU member states, according to a draft document, said binding targets should be set based on the extent of dependence each country has on Russian supplies and the volumes of gas already delivered to storage facilities.
Additionally, the document cited by the news outlet said the member states believed that those able to supply others with gas should be allowed to cut demand by less than 15%, while also calling for several industries considered critical to the EU common market to be exempted from the requirements.
"Member states should be free to choose the appropriate measures to reach the demand reduction," the draft document read, as per FT.
The draft exemptions require that no less than five EU member states sign a request to the European Commission that makes the guidance mandatory, while the majority of member states will have to support this requirement.
The European Commission's proposal is aimed at mitigating the damages caused by the sanctions on Russia's energy sector, which left the European economies high and dry after preventing them from acquiring gas from Moscow. The bloc has already approved seven packages of sanctions against Moscow, including a gradual phase-out of Russian oil in the wake of the Ukraine war.
Western sanctions have resulted in disruptions of supply chains and a spike in energy prices worldwide. Russia's Gazprom has been forced to significantly reduce its Nord Stream 1 gas supplies due to delays in maintenance work on turbines.
Moscow had repeatedly warned that further maintenance delays could result in a complete shutdown of gas flows via the pipeline network.
Fears that a sudden shortfall of Russian gas may bring Europe's largest economy to its knees drove the German government to pass laws mandating that all of the country's gas reservoirs be 90% full by November.
Germany has already decided to phase out Russian oil and coal as part of Western sanctions against Moscow. However, getting independence from Russian gas will take longer – and will not be cheap, as the Ukraine conflict and following sanctions drive up energy prices.
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The European Union plans to reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas by two-thirds this year, starting with a reduction in demand for Russian gas of two-thirds this year. According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the region "cannot rely on a supplier that blatantly threatens us."