EU reaches deal to fill gas storage to 80% before winter

The gas measures come in the wake of a turbulent winter for the EU. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) - European Union lawmakers and countries reached a deal to set a minimum natural-gas storage level before winter, as the bloc tries to avoid an energy crunch resulting from a potential halt in Russian supplies.

The two sides agreed with the European Commission's proposal to set a minimum storage level of 80 per cent before Nov 1, increasing to 90 per cent for subsequent winters.

In addition, member states without storage facilities will need to ensure that at least 15 per cent of their average consumption in the last five years is stored in another EU country.

The measures come in the wake of a turbulent winter for the EU. Even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent European gas futures to record levels earlier this year, prices were elevated as storage levels had dropped to historic lows.

The bloc wants to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Operators will have to abide by the new regulation or risk losing certification and control over underground storage facilities.

Russian energy giant Gazprom was criticised for not filling up its EU facilities last winter.

By November, member states will have to publish their draft decisions on which operators have received certification.

"We will crack down on operators who endanger our security of supply," Cristian Busoi, chair of the industry and energy committee in the EU Parliament, said in a statement.

"European citizens will have enough gas next winter, and will be protected from those who seek to use energy supplies as a weapon."

The bloc is also moving forward with a €210 billion (S$300 billion) plan to cut its reliance on top-supplier Russia by as much as two-thirds this year, by scaling up renewables and seeking alternative fossil fuel supplies.

Dutch front-month gas, the European benchmark, was 3.8 per cent lower at €90.95 per megawatt-hour by 1.13pm in Amsterdam. High levels of liquefied natural gas imports are helping to replenish stockpiles and easing concerns over supply.

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