Article European Union: Commission Proposes Legislation to Reduce Gas Use to Prepare for Russian Gas-Supply Disruptions

On July 20, 2022, the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation to reduce gas use in Europe by 15% until the spring of 2023. The regulation intends to counter the reliance of European Union (EU) member states on Russian gas by improving the coordination framework for national gas-demand reduction measures. In addition, it introduces a new alert at the EU level that would trigger a mandatory EU-wide demand reduction. The proposal is based on article 122 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which allows the Council of the European Union, on a proposal from the Commission, to take “measures appropriate to the economic situation, in particular if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products, notably in the area of energy.”

An EU regulation has general application. It is binding in its entirety and directly applicable in the EU member states. (Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) art. 288, para. 2.)

Content of the Proposal

The proposal provides rules for improved coordination, monitoring, and reporting on national gas-demand reduction measures and introduces a special crisis-level alert at the EU level. (Proposal art. 1.) It encourages member states to make their best efforts to reduce their gas consumption by at least 15% between August 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023, in comparison to their average consumption between August and March during the five preceding years (voluntary reduction demand). (Art. 3.) The member states are free to choose the appropriate measures to achieve the reduction as long as they are clearly defined, transparent, proportionate, and nondiscriminatory. (Art. 5.)

The alert at the EU level (Union alert) is a specific crisis level and is in addition to the three national gas-crisis levels set up by Regulation 2017/1938 (early warning, alert, and emergency). Once declared by the European Commission, it would trigger a mandatory demand reduction of at least 15%. A Union alert may be declared only when a “substantial risk of a severe gas supply shortage or an exceptionally high demand of gas” exists; a voluntary reduction demand has proved insufficient; and a significant deterioration of the gas supply in the EU consequently occurs. In addition to the Commission, three national authorities may also demand the declaration of a Union alert after they have declared national alerts. (Art. 2, no. 2; arts. 4, 5.)

If the proposal is adopted, member states would be obligated to coordinate their measures to achieve the reduction within relevant risk groups and update their national emergency plans. (Art. 7.) National authorities would have to inform the Commission regularly on measures taken and how much demand-reduction was achieved. The Commission would be authorized to request a member state to submit a strategy on how to reach the demand-reduction obligation if the member state will likely not be able to fulfil the mandatory demand-reduction request. (Art. 8.)

Background to the Proposal

In 2021, the EU member states received more than 40% of their gas supplies from Russia. Due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, the supply of gas has continuously decreased and is being used by Russia as a “political weapon.” (Proposal at 1 & recital 1.) According to the Commission, overall flows from Russia are now less than 30% of the average of 2016–2021, and the EU is “facing the realistic prospect of a full and protracted disruption of gas from Russia at any moment.” Twelve EU member states had to activate the first or second crisis level in accordance with the common EU classification to safeguard the security of the gas supply. The current legal framework does not adequately address disruptions of a major gas supplier that last more than 30 days. The proposed regulation therefore aims to create an improved coordination framework for national gas demand-reduction measures to improve preparedness for possible major supply disruptions. It reflects the principle of “energy solidarity” by encouraging member states to act jointly even if they are not as exposed to the disruption as other member states. (Proposal at 1, 2, 7.)

Additional Measures to Ensure the Gas Supply

The Commission proposal complements other measures that are already in place or have been proposed to safeguard the security of the gas supply in the EU and to counter the reliance on Russian gas. In particular, Regulation 2017/1938 aims to safeguard an uninterrupted supply of gas throughout the EU and establishes three gas-crisis levels for national authorities. The REPowerEU plan adopted in May 2022 sets out measures to save energy, produce clean energy, and diversify the EU’s energy supplies to end the EU’s reliance on Russian gas by 2027. Furthermore, a regulation was adopted that amends Regulation 2017/1938 and requires underground gas storage facilities to be refilled to at least 80% in 2022 and 90% in 2023, respectively, for the upcoming winter. In addition, in April 2022, the EU set up the EU Energy Platform, which is a “voluntary coordination mechanism supporting the purchase of gas and hydrogen for the EU.”

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European Union: Commission Proposes Legislation to Reduce Gas Use to Prepare for Russian Gas-Supply Disruptions. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-21/european-union-commission-proposes-legislation-to-reduce-gas-use-to-prepare-for-russian-gas-supply-disruptions/.

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(2022) European Union: Commission Proposes Legislation to Reduce Gas Use to Prepare for Russian Gas-Supply Disruptions. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-21/european-union-commission-proposes-legislation-to-reduce-gas-use-to-prepare-for-russian-gas-supply-disruptions/.

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European Union: Commission Proposes Legislation to Reduce Gas Use to Prepare for Russian Gas-Supply Disruptions. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-21/european-union-commission-proposes-legislation-to-reduce-gas-use-to-prepare-for-russian-gas-supply-disruptions/>.