EU lawmakers agreed to speed up construction of new gas storage and interconnection facilities on Tuesday (13 July) in response to supply crises like those caused by the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute in 2008 and 2009.
The European Parliament's industry committee backed an agreement reached between the institutions last month over a new regulation on security of gas supply (EURACTIV 28/06/10).
It stressed that households should be protected against disruptions like those that took place during the Russia-Ukraine gas rows in the winters of 2008 and 2009, which left millions without heating.
The Parliament underlined the customer protection aspects of the new rules, pointing out that household supplies would be first to be protected.
National capitals, however, obtained the right to add small and medium-sized enterprises and essential social services to the list of protected customers, if these do not consume more than 20% of national gas supplies.
The regulation requires gas companies to guarantee supplies to protected customers when temperatures are extremely low for a seven-day peak period and for 30 days in case of exceptionally high demand. They will also have to secure supplies for 30 days in case of infrastructure disruption during periods of average winter weather.
Interconnections and storage
In addition, the new rules require member states to ensure they can meet demand on a day of exceptionally high demand in case their biggest gas infrastructure fails. The extremely cold weather that triggers such demand statistically occurs every 20 years, according to the European Commission.
Member states were given four years to comply with the standard by building storage capacity and interconnections, introducing reverse-flow technology in all interconnections between member states within three years and diversifying gas supplies to cut dependence on just one third-country supplier.
To ensure that the standards are met, member states will have to prepare national crisis prevention plans within two years of the regulation's entry into force. The Parliament insisted that the Commission be given the power to scrutinise the plans and request changes if it finds that they risk endangering security of supply in the EU.
The regulation also establishes emergency responses, both by member states and the Commission. The EU executive will be able to declare a "Union emergency" or a regional emergency if at least two national capitals request it to.
The whole Parliament will now have to approve the text during its September plenary session.