New rules to boost gas supply security and solidarity in EU
OREANDA-NEWS. February 22, 2016. The European Commission has set out new rules that will help prevent a gas supply crisis in the future and ensure better emergency plans if a crisis were to happen.
Under these new rules, regional cooperation and coordination on gas will be improved both to prevent and to mitigate supply shocks, as well as to ensure solidarity in the event of an emergency. EU countries will also be obliged to help out a neighbouring EU country if they are experiencing gas supply trouble. This is known as the 'solidarity principle' among Member States, whereby, in the event of a gas crisis in a Member State, the gas supply to households, essential services such as healthcare and district heating, will be ensured by neighbouring countries.
Gas supply security rules will also see a shift from a national approach to a regional approach where countries will work together to identify common gas supply risks. Countries outside the EU, but part of the Energy Community, will also be included to help prevent gas crises and ensure better management of a crisis at the EU's borders.
EU countries will have to prepare risk assessments, preventive action plans and emergency plans at regional level which must be updated every four years. They must also work together to decide on the construction of reverse gas flows at cross-border interconnections and involve other EU countries situated along the gas route.
Gas covers around a quarter of the EU's energy demand and the EU is the world's biggest importer of gas. The EU needs to import around 65% of its gas (2013 figures) and Russia, Norway and Algeria are the main suppliers.
Gas is also considered as the main back-up fuel to renewables when the weather hampers the production of renewable energy.
Meanwhile, the Commission has published a strategy for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as well as gas storage in the EU. Production of LNG is fast-growing, in particular in Australia and the US. The Commission would like to take advantage of these new opportunities since it can help boost the EU's security of supply.
LNG is natural gas that has been converted to a liquid which can then be transported via ship and road tankers. Since its transport method is much more flexible than pipelines, countries with LNG infrastructure are much more resilient to supply disruptions.
The strategy also foresees that Member States will optimise the use of gas storage across borders through increased regional cooperation. Currently, large gas storage facilities are only located in a handful of countries – Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands.