EU member countries – with Hungary being the only exception – have agreed on a gas emergency plan for this winter. The aim is to save 15% gas. However, the plan also provides for numerous exceptions. At a special meeting of the ministers responsible for energy on Tuesday in Brussels, the necessary majority for the step came together, as confirmed by the Czech EU Council Presidency. The plan is primarily intended to reduce the risks that could arise from a complete disruption of Russian gas supplies.
The Plan therefore proposes a voluntary gas demand reduction target of 15% from August 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023. To reach that target, it outlines various measures whereby Member States can encourage the decrease of gas demand and consumption by the public sector, businesses, as well as households. By the end of September, Member States are required to update their existing national emergency plans with their planned demand-reduction measures to meet this target. The Annex on demand reduction details policy measures available to incentivise fuel switching and the decrease of gas consumption. It also puts forward criteria for Member States to identify critical non-protected consumers should curtailment be necessary.
In addition, the plan is underpinned by a legislative proposal introducing a new EU emergency tool to address a potential gap between supply and demand in the European gas market. The proposed Regulation, based on Article 122 of the EU Treaty, introduces a process to declare, after consulting the Council, an EU alert if voluntary demand-reduction targets are not sufficient to prevent this gap. In case of such a situation, the Commission is empowered to activate a binding demand reduction target.
Justifying the Hungarian government's position to negate the deal, the country's foreign minister claimed that the EU Gas Savings Regulation is unfounded, unenforceable and completely disregards the interests of the Hungarian people.
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