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Gearing up for gas emergencies - 16/07/2009

Town heating pipes, Romania © EC

Proposals for transparency and monitoring to keep gas flowing to the EU.

In most parts of the EU, a continuous power supply to our homes is taken for granted. So there was general alarm when lights went out and radiators went cold in several central and eastern European countries in January 2009. The shortage was caused by a disruption of Russian gas deliveries to the EU via Ukraine, following a contractual dispute between Russia and Ukraine over debts and prices.

One quarter of all energy used in the EU – including 20% of electricity – is generated from gas, 60% of which is imported. Some countries, such as Bulgaria, import all their gas, making them particularly vulnerable to interruptions in supplies.

The European commission is seeking to bolster the EU’s capacity to deal with gas shortages. A new proposal calls for more transparent investment in energy infrastructure, so the EU can see whether planned projects will be able to cope with future demand.

In addition, each country would have to designate an authority responsible for monitoring gas-supply developments, assessing risks and organising preventive action and emergency plans. When necessary, the agency would call for extra gas to be stockpiled, to reduce the risk of blackouts.

The proposal calls on all EU countries to work together if there is a serious disruption of supplies from outside the EU. Pipelines could be operated in reverse-flow to re-route gas to where it is most needed, and more connections between national energy grids would prevent individual countries from being isolated. The necessary investments will be made in the context of the European economic recovery plan.

The EU is also diversifying its gas suppliers. The EU recently signed an agreement on the construction of the Nabucco pipeline, which will supply the union with gas from central Asia via Turkey.

Secure natural gas supplies for the EU

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