“We are preparing for any eventuality, whether it is serious disruption or a total disruption of Russian gas deliveries (…) If the worst materializes, we will have to be ready”, had declared at the beginning of July to Strasbourg the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
The European executive presented a strategy in the spring to free itself from Russian hydrocarbons. The plan, dubbed “RePowerEU”, aimed to impose on States a minimum filling of gas reserves, to diversify sources of supply, and to promote renewable energies.
Wednesday’s announcements will target a reduction in demand.
Despite an increase in imports from Norway, Azerbaijan or Algeria, “non-Russian gas resources will simply not be enough to replace deliveries from Russia”, the director of the Agency warned on Monday. International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol.
The arsenal of measures proposed by Brussels therefore aims to reduce annual gas consumption in the EU by around 25 to 60 billion m3, according to a draft text consulted by AFP. For comparison, Russia had supplied in 2020 some 153 billion m3 to the Twenty-Seven, or 40% of their gas imports.
In detail, 11 billion m3 would come from a reduction in the heating or air conditioning of buildings, between 4 and 40 billion m3 would be saved on the combustion of gas for the production of electricity, and 10 to 11 billion on the industrial demand which has already faltered under the effect of soaring prices.
Brussels must in particular ask the States to adopt binding measures to limit heating to 19 degrees and air conditioning to 25 degrees in public and commercial buildings, “where it is technically feasible”.
– Lower the thermostat –
In addition, “significant savings can be made by deploying alternative heat sources for district heating and heat pumps” in private homes, while communication campaigns should encourage households to lower the thermostat by one degree this winter, the document adds.
“Protected customers” (households, social services, SMEs, whose supply is guaranteed by European legislation) represent less than 37% of total gas consumption.
The Commission therefore wants to specifically target electricity production and industry, which are very energy-intensive.
In its project, Brussels proposes to the States to “switch to nuclear power where it is an option” possible, and asks the countries wishing to give up the civil atom to postpone their plans to close nuclear power plants.
And to minimize interruptions to gas-fired power stations, diesel-powered backup generators will need to be able to take over “for at least five days”.
For manufacturers, the text recalls the existence of alternatives to polluting energies: switching to biomass or biomethane, electrification of certain machines, etc.
Brussels is proposing to the Twenty-Seven to set up “auction systems” which would offer companies “compensations” in exchange for a reduction in their consumption.
Even for sectors with little leeway to do without gas, such as chemicals, which uses it as a raw material, “it would be much less costly to moderately reduce demand gradually” rather than waiting to be hit by a sudden disruption of supply, considers the Commission.
This plan, which will be examined on July 26 by European energy ministers, is being unveiled at a critical moment.
The Nord Stream gas pipeline, through which passes a third of Russian gas deliveries to the EU, has been closed since July 11 for routine maintenance which is due to end on Thursday, but Europeans fear that Moscow will not reopen the tap . In previous weeks, Russia had already slashed 60% of its shipments via Nord Stream.