"We have known for some time that the existing arrangements to deal with gas emergencies are insufficient […] All member states recognise that we need common standards for security of gas supply for the whole EU," said the bloc's energy commissioner, Andris Piebalgs.
The proposal authorises the Commission to declare a Community emergency at the request of a single member state, or when the Union loses more than 10% of its daily gas import from third countries. It also entitles the EU executive to coordinate member-state actions between one another and towards third countries.
EU states have a three-year transitional period until the end of March 2014 to ensure that they have either enough gas storage capacity or diversified energy supplies to handle a 60-day supply disruption in extreme winter weather.
But unlike the proposal for a revised directive on oil stocks approved by ministers last month (EurActiv 15/06/09), the gas regulation does not require compulsory strategic stocks as it is replaceable in most uses, the Commission said.
Instead, the document sets common standards for member states to define "serious gas supply disruptions", called 'N-1'. This refers to the preparedness of a country to satisfy its total gas demand during 60 days of exceptionally high gas demand if there is a disruption in the largest gas supply infrastructure.
In order to meet the N-1 standard, member states have to designate a competent authority to assess risks and establish both preventive and emergency plans. The Commission reserves the right to require that plans be revised if they do not comply with the regulation.
To meet the infrastructure requirements, the regulation obliges transmission system operators to ensure reverse flow capacity on all interconnections within two years after the entry into force of the directive, if it would enhance the security of supply of a member state.
Piebalgs said Baltic nations would face the biggest challenges in meeting the standards, with the largest investments needed in Lithuania and Slovenia, where gas consumption is significant. Denmark, on the other hand, is best placed with its own production, while Germany and Belgium have "decent storage capacity" and are doing fine, he added.