About one quarter of all the energy used in the EU is natural gas and many EU countries import nearly all of their supplies. Some EU countries are also heavily reliant on a single source or a single transport route for the majority of their gas.
Disruptions along single transport routes can threaten the uninterrupted gas supply to some European countries. Gas supply disruptions may result from technical or human failures, natural disasters, cyber-attacks and other emerging risks, as well as from geopolitical disputes.
For example in 2009, a gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine affected gas supplies to some EU countries. In 2017, an explosion at a major European gas hub in Baumgarten (Austria) caused neighbouring countries to issue an early warning, or declare a state of energy emergency. In the autumn of 2021, the energy price spike triggered questions regarding the EU’s security of supply, due to the interplay between prices, lower than usual storage filling levels and the consistency of availability of gas supplies for the gas system. In the first half of 2022, after Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, several EU countries have experienced unilateral and unjustified supply cuts from Russia.
EU framework for security of gas supply
Regulation (EU) 2017/1938 on measures to safeguard the security of gas supply is the reference legal text. It lays down the framework for EU emergency preparedness and resilience to gas disruptions. Its provisions are based on improved information exchange, regional cooperation and solidarity, and cover
- cooperation between EU countries in regional groups to assess common supply risks (Common Risk Assessments) and to develop joint preventive and emergency measures
- the facilitation of permanent bi-directional capacity on all cross-border interconnections between EU countries by transmission service operators, unless an exemption is granted
- the preparation of EU-wide simulations of gas supply and infrastructure disruption, carried out by European Network for Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG), provides a high level overview of the major supply for the EU
Reinforcement of storage rules
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the beginning of 2022, the Commission published on 23 March a proposal for amendment of Regulation (EU) 2017/1938 including measures to deal with the market imbalances for energy and to ensure well-filled gas storage in the EU. The proposal highlights how gas storage contributes to security of supply by absorbing supply shocks in case of strong demand or supply disruptions.
On 27 June, the European Parliament and the Council adopted this proposal. The resulting Regulation on Gas Storage (EU) 2022/1032), amending Regulations (EU) 2017/1938 and (EC) 715/2009, provides that underground gas storage on EU countries’ territory must be filled to at least 80% of their capacity before the winter of 2022/2023 and to 90% before the following winter periods. Overall, the EU will attempt collectively to fill at least 85% of the total underground gas storage capacity in the EU in 2022.
EU gas demand measures
As a response to unilateral supply cuts from Russia in the first half of 2022, and to proactively improve the EU’s security of supply, the Commission presented on 20 July 2022 a proposal for a Regulation on Coordinated Demand Reduction Measures for Gas and the Communication “Save gas for a safe winter”, which includes a European Gas Demand Reduction Plan to prepare the EU for supply cuts. The Communication and its annex also list good practice measures to reduce demand and offer EU countries criteria to identify essential customers who are not already protected under the Regulation on security of supply. The regulatory proposal and the communication build upon ongoing work to diversify supplies, as announced in the Commission’s REPowerEU plan, published in May 2022.
On 5 August 2022, the Council adopted a Regulation on coordinated demand reduction measures for gas on a voluntary reduction of natural gas demand by 15% this winter. It aims at complementing the Regulation on gas security of supply. On the basis of a Commission proposal on security of supply, it foresees the possibility for the Council to trigger a ‘Union alert’ to issue mandatory gas demand reductions.
The Commission proposed on 20 March 2023 to prolong the measures for another 12 months. EU levels of gas storage are historically high and new infrastructure has been built to help diversification, but global gas markets are expected to remain tight in the months ahead, with a number of possible risks and challenges. To fully compensate for the permanent decrease in Russian gas, a continuation of the gas demand reduction is needed to avoid security of supply issues next winter. The proposal will be discussed by EU energy ministers on 28 March.
Regulation (EU) 2017/1938 enables a solidarity mechanism that will come into effect only in the event of an extreme gas crisis. It will help ensure that so-called 'protected customers' like households and hospitals continue to have access to gas, even in the worst crisis. To do so, EU countries are putting in place the necessary bilateral technical, legal and financial arrangements to make the provision of solidarity gas possible in practice.
The first bilateral solidarity agreement was signed between Germany and Denmark on 14 December 2020, while other 5 agreements were signed by Germany and Austria on 2 December 2021; Estonia and Latvia on 4 January 2022; Lithuania and Latvia on 10 March 2022; Italy and Slovenia on 22 April 2022; Finland and Estonia on 25 April 2022. In a proposal of December 2021 to amend the Security of Gas Supply Regulation ((EU) 2017/1938), the Commission introduced harmonised clauses directly applicable when needed in the absence of a bilateral arrangement (Article 67 of the proposed regulation) proposing a template in Annex II.
Preventive action plans and emergency plans
The preventive action plans and emergency plans prepared by EU countries are important tools to guarantee the security of gas supply. Preventive action plans include measures needed to remove or mitigate gas supply risks identified in their national and common risk assessments. Emergency plans on the other hand, cover measures to remove or mitigate the impact of a gas supply disruption. The regulation foresees that plans follow a common structure and contain the same key elements, which makes it easier to compare the plans of different EU countries. It also requires that the preventive and emergency plans must be updated every 4 years and include regional chapters reflecting common risks. You may consult all final plans and Commission opinions.
Gas Coordination Group
The Gas Coordination Group is a standing advisory group, coordinating security of supply measures, especially during crises. The group assists the Commission on monitoring the adequacy and appropriateness of measures to be taken under the regulation, as well as serving as a platform for the exchange of information on security of gas supply between key stakeholders. In addition, the Gas Coordination Group continuously monitors the storage levels and security of supply throughout the EU and its neighbourhood. The group meets regularly to discuss these matters.
Members include national authorities, the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG), the Energy Community and representatives of industry and consumer associations.
Proposal for prolonging the gas demand reduction period and reinforced reporting (20/03/2023)
Amending Regulation (EU) 2022/1369
Report on how the existing regulation has functioned COM(2023) 173
Staff Working Document on coordinated gas demand reduction measures SWD(2023) 63
- Report: How to Avoid Gas Shortages in the European Union in 2023 – Analysis - IEA (December 2022)
- Media package on additional proposals to fight high energy prices and ensure security of supply (19/10/2022)
- Council Regulation on coordinated demand-reduction measures
for gas ((EU) 2022/1369)
- Regulation on Gas Storage ((EU) 2022/1032)
- Delegated act updating the regional risk groups under the security of gas supply regulation and annex (C(2021) 7797)
- Commission's opinions on the Preventive Action Plans and Emergency Plans submitted by Member States in 2019, 2016 and 2014 (update: December 2020)
- Commission decision on reverse flow exemptions (C(2020) 6600 final)
- Communication - "Save Gas for a Safe Winter" and annex (COM/2022/360)
- Proposal for a Regulation on coordinated demand reduction measures for gas (COM(2022) 361)
- Press material: Save Gas for a Safe Winter (20/7/2022), Questions and Answers
- Proposal for a Regulation on the internal markets for renewable and natural gases and for hydrogen (COM/2021/804 final)
- Proposal for a Regulation on conditions for access to natural gas transmission networks (amending Regulation (EU) 2017/1938) and its annex (COM/2022/135 final)
- Commission Decision on the composition and the operational provisions of the Gas Coordination Group (2011/C 236/09)