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.
Preventing gas supply disruptions
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.
Then, 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.
To help prevent potential supply disruptions and respond to them if they happen, the EU has agreed on common standards and indicators to assess serious threats and prepare against their impacts. The measures in place allow EU countries to define how much gas is needed to guarantee the supply to households and essential services at all times, also in extreme gas disruption situations.
EU framework for security of gas supply
Regulation (EU) 2017/1938 on measures to safeguard the security of gas supply, which repealed Regulation (EU) 994/2010, is the reference legal text.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 notification of major long-term supply contracts that may be relevant to security of supply by natural gas companies to their national authorities
- 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
Amendments to the regulatory framework
The EU adopted a new regulatory package in December 2021, including amendments to the Security of Gas Supply Regulation ((EU) 2017/1938). These amendments (Article 67 of the proposed regulation) aim to extend the scope of the regulation to renewable and low carbon gases while also adapting it to new risks, such as cyber security, and increasing stability, resilience and the EU’s strategic autonomy. Moreover, they adopt a regional approach to make a more efficient use of storage, for example by agreeing on risks and measures in the regional risk groups. The new storage provisions also enable voluntary joint procurement of strategic stocks by Transmission System Operators (TSOs) in times of emergency.
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. These include a minimum 80% gas storage level obligation by 1 November 2022, rising to 90% for the following years. The proposal highlights how gas storages contribute to security of supply by absorbing supply shocks in case of strong demand or supply disruptions.
A key objective of the regulation is to enable a solidarity mechanism that will come into effect only in the event of an extreme gas crisis. It will help ensure that the most vulnerable consumers continue to have access to gas, even in challenging conditions.
EU countries are required to put in place the necessary technical, legal and financial arrangements to make the provision of solidarity gas possible in practice. EU countries must therefore reach bilateral agreements with their neighbours and agree on the next steps, should solidarity gas be needed.
The solidarity mechanism is a landmark step in developing the EU’s resilience to gas supply disruptions and it helps realise the solidarity principle that underpins EU energy policy more widely. Similar cooperation and mutual assistance arrangements are foreseen in the electricity sector by the Regulation on risk-preparedness (EU) 2019/941.
To facilitate the task of the EU countries, the Commission issued a guidance document on the technical, legal and financial elements that should be included in arrangements.
The first bilateral solidarity agreement was signed between Germany and Denmark on 14 December 2020, while a second agreement was signed by Germany and Austria on 2 December 2021.
The EU adopted a new regulatory package in December 2021, including amendments to the Security of Gas Supply Regulation ((EU) 2017/1938), also in order to facilitate solidarity agreements of the EU countries, and proposed in Annex II a template to be used by them to this purpose.
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 neighborhood. 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.
- Delegated act updating the regional risk groups under the security of gas supply regulation, annex
- 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
- Implementation roadmap for the new security of gas supply regulation (September 2017)
- Study: Best practices and methodological guidelines for conducting gas risk assessments (JRC, 2013)
- Report: Development of an evaluation tool to assess correlated risks and regional vulnerabilities (JRC, 2012)
- Technical summary of Commission’s main findings on Preventive Action Plans and Emergency Plans prepared under regulation (EU) No 994/2010
- 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
- Security of gas supply regulation (EU) 2017/1938
- Commission Decision on the composition and the operational provisions of the Gas Coordination Group (2011/C 236/09)
- Gas Coordination Group