EU unveils new plans to avert future gas cuts

17th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The measures are aimed at helping the 27 nations better anticipate, avoid and respond to any cuts in natural gas supplies, particularly from a major supplier like Russia, whose gas arrives in Europe via Ukraine.

Brussels -- The European Union unveiled Thursday plans to confront gas supply shortages, fearing a renewed energy crisis between Russia and Ukraine.

The measures are aimed at helping the 27 nations better anticipate, avoid and respond to any cuts in natural gas supplies, particularly from a major supplier like Russia, whose gas arrives in Europe via Ukraine.

Russia provides about a quarter of the gas consumed in the EU -- 80 percent of that is piped through Ukraine -- and the gas price dispute between Moscow and Kiev in January hit homes and businesses in Europe.

It also exposed gaping weaknesses in the EU system, like poor interconnection between countries and dependence on one very basic network, which meant that a problem in one place quickly spread around.

"Europe must learn the lessons of previous crises and make sure that European citizens are never again left in the cold through no fault of their own," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement.

The plans would create a common gas security indicator and supply standard.

Security for supplies would be supervised by national bodies, which would also set up a preventative action plan and emergency measures to deal with any crisis.

Those measures could call for investment in new interconnections or reverse flow pipelines, allowing gas to be pumped back the other way if there were a change in supplier.

Keen to avoid a repeat of the past, the commission urged EU nations last week to prepare for possible gas supply cuts by filling storage tanks ahead of the peak winter demand period, as the Russia-Ukraine gas bill row simmers.

Then on Monday, EU nations and Turkey signed a deal on the Nabucco pipeline.

The 3,300-kilometre project is due to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Austria via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, while bypassing Russia, in a bid to reduce Europe's energy dependence on Moscow.

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said Thursday that the EU is not targeting Russia, but simply trying to diversify its supplies.

Said Piebalgs: "The issue is not replacing gas from Russia. The issue is establishing a gas market that is safe from any type of interruption of supply.”

AFP/Expatica

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