About one-quarter of all the energy used in the EU is natural gas and many EU countries import nearly all their supplies. Some EU countries are also heavily reliant on a single source or transport route for most of their gas.
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 some EU countries, disruptions along a single transport route can threaten the certainty of their gas supply, for example
- in 2009, a gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine affected gas supplies to a number of 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 gas availability.
In the first half of 2022, after Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, several EU countries experienced unilateral and unjustified supply cuts from Russia.
EU framework for security of gas supply
The Regulation on measures to safeguard the security of gas supply (EU/2017/1938) 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 the European Network for Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG), provides a high-level overview of the major supply for the EU
Reinforcement of gas storage rules
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Commission published on 23 March 2022 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 highlighted how gas storage contributes to the security of supply by absorbing supply shocks in case of strong demand or supply disruptions. The European Parliament and the Council adopted the proposal in June 2022.
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 by 1 November 2022 and to 90%, at the same date, in the years to follow.
Key facts on gas storage
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 (COM/2022/361) and the Communication “Save gas for a safe winter” (COM/2022/360), which also included a European Gas Demand Reduction Plan to prepare the EU for supply cuts.
The Communication and its annex also listed good practice measures to reduce demand and offered EU countries criteria to identify essential customers who were not already protected under the Regulation on security of supply. The regulatory proposal and the communication built upon ongoing work to diversify supplies, as announced in the Commission’s REPowerEU plan.
On 5 August 2022, the Council adopted the emergency Regulation on coordinated demand reduction measures for gas (EU/2022/1369) introducing a voluntary reduction of natural gas demand by 15% for winter 2022/23, meant to complement the Regulation on gas security of supply. Based on a Commission proposal on the security of supply, it foresaw the possibility for the Council to trigger a ‘Union alert’ to issue mandatory gas demand reductions.
EU gas storage ended the 2022/23 winter at historically high levels. Nevertheless, global gas markets were expected to remain tight in 2023, with several possible risks and challenges. To cover these risks and fully compensate for the permanent decrease in Russian gas, the Commission proposed on 20 March 2023 to prolong the measures for another 12 months. The Council backed this move to avoid security of supply issues winter 2023/24 and the Regulation (EU) 2023/706 was adopted on 30 March 2023.
In July 2023, the total gas reduction for all EU countries together was 17%, compared to August 2022, by saving 69 bcm (source ENER Chief Economist Team, 18 June 2023).
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.
Under the regulation, the following bilateral agreements have been signed
- Slovenia and Croatia (14 July 2023)
- Denmark and Sweden (8 May 2023)
- Finland and Estonia (25 April 2022)
- Italy and Slovenia (22 April 2022)
- Lithuania and Latvia (10 March 2022)
- Estonia and Latvia (4 January 2022)
- Germany and Austria (2 December 2021)
- Germany and Denmark (14 December 2020)
In its proposal to amend 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) suggesting 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 the 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, 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.
All preventive and emergency final plans and Commission opinions are available on a dedicated page, per EU country and linguistic version.
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 the 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.
- 5 October 2023 - Report shows EU security of energy supply measures make a difference
- 20 March 2023 Preparing for the next winter starts now: Commission proposes to prolong the gas demand reduction measures
- 12 December 2022 Statement by President von der Leyen on ‘REPowerEU: outlook on EU gas supply in 2023'
- 20 July 2022 Press release “Save Gas for a Safe Winter”, Questions and Answers , Factsheet “Save gas for a safe winter”, Factsheet “A European gas demand reduction plan”
- 18 October 2022 Press release “Additional proposals to fight high energy prices and ensure security of supply”, Questions and Answers, Factsheet on high energy prices and security of supply, Factsheet on energy emergency
- Report reviewing the application of Regulation (EU) 2017/1938 (COM/2023)571)
- Proposal for a Regulation prolonging the gas demand reduction period and reinforced reporting (COM/2023/174 final)
- Report on the review of the functioning of Regulation (EU) 2022/1369 on coordinated gas demand reduction (COM/2023/173)
- 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)
- Proposal for a Regulation on coordinated demand reduction measures for gas (COM(2022) 361)
- Regulation on gas storage (EU) 2022/1032) amending Regulations (EU/2017/1938) and (EC/715/2009) with regard to gas storage