Saturday, August 13

Brussels opens the door to joint gas purchases in the EU

  • The European Commission includes in its review of the natural gas market the possibility for member states to join together, on a voluntary basis, to carry out joint acquisitions, although only in emergency cases

Despite the doubts expressed in mid-November by the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) in its preliminary report on the operation of the electricity market (the final one will be ready in April), the European Commission has opened the door for the member states that wish to join forces to carry out joint gas purchases in the European Union, as it has been asking for the Government of Pedro Sánchez as a measure to stop the rise in electricity prices on the European continent. Brussels includes the possibility in the revision of the rules of the internal gas market presented this Wednesday, although the measure would be voluntary and for emergency situations.

The proposal, included in the package to decarbonize the gas market and boost hydrogen, responds to the escalating energy prices in recent months, the volatility of world markets and the request made in mid-October by EU leaders, which invited the EU Executive to adopt medium and long-term measures to increase resilience and strengthen security of supply in the event of an energy crisis. The response from Brussels includes a package with several lines of action. First, the aforementioned possibility of the Twenty-seven making joint purchases.

“The idea is that the Member States that wish to do so, on a voluntary basis, join forces through joint purchases that could help them achieve better conditions in the global market” although it would be limited to “emergency cases”, explain Executive sources. whose role will be to ensure that the competition rules, the internal market and that European legislation is respected. By emergency Brussels understands any gas shortage situation that affects consumers, homes or companies.

Would the current situation meet the conditions to activate the mechanism? “No, fortunately we are not there and we hope not to get there,” say the same sources about one of the main demands of Spain to lower current prices, supported by others such as France, but they do not look favorably on Germany or Belgium. The countries interested in starting a purchase operation would have to inform the rest of the partners as well as the European Commission of their intentions, although later it would be the electrical operators and carriers (TSO, in English) who will assume the operation. In any case, it will have to respect the rules of competition “and be open to participation in a later phase by other member states that so wish,” says the Community Executive.

Storage capacity

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The plan is also committed to reinforcing European storage capacity, explicitly including the role of storage in risk assessments at the regional level. “If the Member States conclude that there is a risk, they should consider measures in their emergency preventive plans, to ensure a minimum level of stocks, which could be carried out in the form of minimum storage obligations, tenders or auctions”, explain the same sources . In this case, the affected European countries in a region would have to agree on the financing arrangements and compensation payments as well as the mechanism for transporting the gas from the storage facility to its destination.

“In the event of a shortage, no home in Europe will be abandoned, thanks to greater automatic cross-border solidarity through new predefined provisions and clarifications on controls and compensation in the internal energy market,” says Brussels about a plan that also aims to strengthen the current rules to cover new cybersecurity risks and which must now be negotiated with the European Parliament and Council. The package, which is part of the plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, also includes a proposal to reduce emissions of methane, the second cause of global warming after carbon dioxide, and another to guarantee the energy efficiency of buildings, with renewal obligations for those most inefficient. According to it, 15% of the stock of less efficient homes will have to be renovated by 2030 and by 2027 the same percentage of public buildings.

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