The European Commission today proposed emergency legislation that would allow Brussels to impose 15 percent binding gas consumption cuts on EU countries over the next two years.
“The recent escalation of disruptions of gas supply from Russia points to significant risk that a complete and protracted halt of Russian gas supplies may materialise in an abrupt and unilateral way,” the Commission said in a memo accompanying the proposal. “Taking action now can reduce both the risk and the costs for Europe in case of further or full disruption.”
The regulation would set an initial voluntary 15 percent reduction target for gas use between August 1 and March 31.
Brussels would also be able to activate an EU-wide alert if it deems there is a “substantial risk of a severe gas shortage” and make the 15 percent target mandatory.
If the measure is passed, countries would have to update their national emergency plans by this September to detail how they plan to achieve the voluntary cuts, and provide updates to the Commission on progress every two months.
Should those cuts become binding, individual countries can apply to revise down their mandatory target by 5 percent under certain circumstances.
The proposal comes as leaders brace for a gas supply crunch that could freeze whole sectors of the bloc’s economy if the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream pipeline, which has been down for routine maintenance since July 11, doesn’t come back online on Thursday as scheduled.
Russia’s Gazprom has already shut off or limited gas supply to 12 EU countries. Data from the International Energy Agency released Monday show that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has earned triple what it normally does from oil and gas sales in a single winter, meaning it can afford to keep cutting deliveries westward to Europe.
The Commission estimates that shutting-off Russian gas supplies to the EU would hit the bloc’s economy by up to 1.5 percent of GDP.
EU energy ministers are expected to approve the Commission’s proposal at an Energy Council meeting on July 26.
The proposal also includes a template for a temporary state aid crisis framework, allowing governments to incentivize industry to save gas. Recommended ways to cut gas consumption, including paying industry to use less, are laid out in an accompanying communication and annex, titled “Save gas for a safe winter.”