Richard Ginika Izuora
European Union, EU, members have agreed to reduce gas use in case Russia halts supplies but some countries will have exemptions to avoid rationing.
EU members, locked in talks since the idea was suggested last week, have now agreed to voluntarily reduce 15 per cent of gas use between August and March.
“This was not a Mission Impossible!”, tweeted the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
However, the deal was watered down after previously not having exemptions.
The EU has said its aim from the deal is to make savings and store gas ahead of winter, warning that Russia is “continuously using energy supplies as a weapon”.
The voluntary agreement would become mandatory if supplies reach crisis levels.
However, some countries not connected to the EU’s gas pipe lines, such as Ireland, Malta and Cyprus, would be exempt from any mandatory gas reduction order as they would not be able to source alternative supplies.
Elsewhere the Baltic nations, which are not hooked up to the European electricity system and are heavily reliant on gas for electricity production are also exempt from compulsory targets in order to avoid the risk of an electricity supply crisis.
Countries can also ask to be exempt if they exceed gas storage filling targets, if they are heavily dependent on gas for “critical” industries, or if their gas consumption has increased by at least 8% in the past year compared to the average of the past five years.
Nathan Piper, an oil and gas analyst for Investec, said there is a “high political and economic price” as the EU looks to reduce its dependence on Russian gas – and that price was being reflected in the exemptions for members, which would likely reduce the impact of the measures.
But Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, said initial calculations indicated that even if all exemptions to ration were used, the EU as a whole would still reduce demand to a level “that would help us safely through an average winter”.
She also outlined work to boost alternative gas supplies from countries including Azerbaijan, the United States, Canada, Norway, Egypt and Israel.
Ahead of the deal announcement, Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck said: “Of course there are a lot of compromises in this text now. This is how Europe works.”
Mr Habeck said a “problem might occur” that all the exemptions cause “too much bureaucracy so that we are too slow in times of crisis”, but he added the exemptions were “reasonable”.
Hungary was the only member to oppose the deal.