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IP/09/1153

Brussels, 16 July 2009

The Commission adopts new rules to prevent and deal with gas supply crises

The European Commission today has adopted a new regulation to improve security of gas supplies in the framework of the internal gas market. The proposed Regulation would strengthen the existing EU system for gas supply security by ensuring that all Member States and their gas market players take effective action well in advance to prevent and mitigate the consequences of potential disruptions to gas supplies. It also would create mechanisms for Member States to work together to deal effectively with any major gas disruptions which might arise.

Commission President, José Manuel Barroso said, "Increasing energy security will be one of the top priorities in the coming years. We need to work for the best but make sure we are prepared for the worst. 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. This proposal of the Commission would oblige member states to be prepared and work together in case of further gas disruptions".

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs called on the Council and the European Parliament to adopt the proposals quickly. “We have known for some time that the existing arrangements to deal with gas emergencies are insufficient. The Russia-Ukraine gas dispute in January 2009 confirmed our fears. All Member States recognise that we need common standards for security of gas supply for the whole EU. And those are the standards we propose today", said Commissioner Piebalgs.

The new regulation call Member States to be fully prepared in case of supply disruption, through clear and effective emergency plans involving all stakeholders and incorporating fully the EU dimension of any significant disruption. The plans will be based on appropriate risk assessments.

The proposed Regulation on security of gas supply would provide a common indicator to define a serious gas supply disruption. This is known as N-1, i.e. the shutdown of a major supply infrastructure or equivalent (e.g. import pipeline or production facility). It would require all Member States to have a competent authority that would be responsible for monitoring gas supply developments, assessing risks to supplies, establishing preventive action plans and setting up emergency plans. It would also oblige Member States to collaborate closely in a crisis, including through a strengthened Gas Coordination Group and through shared access to reliable supply information and data.

The proposed Regulation would ensure that all EU consumers benefit from high levels of gas supply security. It would improve the framework for investment in new cross-border interconnections, new import corridors, reverse flows capacities and storages, supported also by the European Economic Recovery Plan. It confirms the greater interdependence of gas supplies within a single European gas market. And it provides a sound basis for the EU to defend its interests more effectively in its relations with external gas suppliers.

The proposed Regulation has been prepared in close collaboration with Member States and the gas industry, including the Gas Coordination Group. It responds to a specific request from the European Council, the European Parliament and the Energy Council, which asked the Energy Commissioner on 19 February 2009 to prepare as a matter of urgency a new instrument to improve the EU emergency response framework for gas to replace the 2004 Gas Security Directive.

The EU is a major gas consumer, and the January 2009 gas crisis demonstrated weaknesses in the current mechanisms for dealing with supply disruptions. Gas now represents more than one quarter of energy supply in the EU. Over half of this gas comes from external sources, and by 2020 over 80% of EU gas is likely to be imported. Some Member States are already totally dependent on imported gas.

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