EU Members Clash Over Natural Gas Consumption Plan

uropean Union officials are discussing on Monday revisions to plans unveiled last week for cutting natural gas use by 15% by next spring after several EU member states expressed concerns about the target for reduction, a draft document seen by Bloomberg showed.

Last week, the European Commission unveiled measures for the EU to conserve gas in the face of risks of further reduction or a shutoff of Russian gas deliveries, asking member states to reduce gas consumption by 15% until the spring.

The Commission proposed a new legislative tool and a European Gas Demand Reduction Plan, setting a target for all member states to reduce gas consumption by 15% between August 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023. The new regulation would also give the Commission the possibility to declare, after consulting Member States, a ‘Union Alert’ on the security of supply, imposing a mandatory gas demand reduction on all Member States, the EC said.

Spain, Portugal, Greece—and the latest, France—however, have expressed their disapproval with the plan and several governments have asked for more flexibility in gas cuts that would take into account each member state’s specific needs and ability to contribute to the consumption cuts.

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Under the current plans, the gas cut could be made mandatory if three EU member states request it, while the current Czech presidency of the EU has proposed a new version, raising to five the number of the countries necessary for a mandatory cut, according to the draft document Bloomberg has seen.

EU members want “national specificities to be taken into account while setting up mandatory reduction targets” and “increasing flexibility in designing reduction measures,” the draft document says.

The European Commission is also considering the possibility of capping gas and electricity prices, following a request by EU members, the document seen by Bloomberg showed.

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