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Energy crisis: Brussels calls on member states to cut gas use by 15%

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The European Commission on Wednesday presented its highly-anticipated plan to ensure the 27 member states can cope in the event of a total gas cut-off from Russia.

The plan put forward by the EU’s executive calls for gas consumption to be cut across the bloc by 15% from August 1 of this year until 31 March 2023 over worries that the EU will struggle to not only fill in gas storage capacities before the onset of winter but also to secure additional supplies during the colder months.

The aim, the Commission said, is to safeguard supply to households and essential users like hospitals and key industries. 

As part of the proposal, member states would have to submit national energy plans to the Commission by the end of September and provide an update every two months. Countries requesting solidarity gas supplies will be required to demonstrate the measures they have taken to reduce demand domestically.

The proposed legislation would also grant the Commission the power to declare a ‘Union alert’ on security of supply and to impose a mandatory gas demand reduction of all member states. 

This alert would be triggered when “there is a substantial risk of severe gas shortage or an exceptionally high gas demand”, the Commission said in a statement. 

The Commission’s proposal will be discussed by EU ministers during an extraordinary energy summit on 26 July.

The EU and its Western partners have accused Russia of weaponising gas supplied to Europe in retaliation against sanctions imposed over its ongoing military attack on Ukraine.

Twelve member states have already had their Russian gas supplies either partially or completely cut-off.

In response, the EU has already committed to filling in gas storage capacities to at least 80% before 1 November but concerns are growing that it will be a hard task as Russia provides 40% of the bloc’s imported gas and that infrastructure to receive liquified natural gas from alternative sources is lacking. 

Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company, has also warned that its deliveries via Nord Stream 1, the pipeline through which about a third of Russian gas transits to Europe, would be cut more after operations restart on Thursday following a planned 10-day maintenance break. 

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