EU agrees to cut gas use over Russia supply fears

European Union (EU) energy ministers have agreed countries will cut gas use in case Russia halts supplies.

EU members, locked in negotiations since the idea was suggested last week, have now agreed to a voluntary of 15 per cent between August and March.

“This was not a Mission Impossible!” tweeted the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

However, documents seen by the BBC suggested the deal had been watered down, with countries able to have exemptions.

The EU said the aim was to make savings ahead of winter, warning that Russia was “continuously using energy supplies as a weapon,” the EU said.

The voluntary deal would become mandatory if supplies reached crisis levels.

However, the EU said some countries not connected to the EU’s gas pipe lines, such as Ireland, Malta and Cyprus, would be exempted from any mandatory gas reduction order as they would not be able to source alternative supplies.

Elsewhere, the Baltic nations, which are not hooked up to the European electricity system and are heavily reliant on gas for electricity production,were also exempted from compulsory targets in order to avoid the risk of an electricity supply crisis.

Countries can also ask to be exempted if they exceeded gas storage filling targets, if they were heavily dependent on gas for “critical” industries, or if their gas consumption has increased by at least 8 per cent in the past year compared to the average of the past five years.

Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, said initial calculations indicated that even if all exemptions were used, the EU would still reduce demand to a level “that would help us safely through an average winter”.

She also outlined work to boost alternative gas supplies from countries including Azerbaijan, the United States, Canada, Norway, Egypt and Israel.

Ahead of the deal announcement, Germany’s Economy Minister, Robert Habeck, said: “Of course there are a lot of compromises in this text now. This is how Europe works.”

Mr Habeck said a “problem might occur” that all the exemptions cause “too much bureaucracy so that we are too slow in times of crisis”, but he added the exemptions were “reasonable”. -BBC

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