The European Union will set out emergency plans on Wednesday to reduce gas demand within months, warning countries that without deep cuts now they could struggle for fuel during winter if Russia cuts off deliveries.
Europe is racing to fill its gas storage ahead of winter and build a supply buffer in case Moscow further restricts supplies in retaliation for European support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Russia’s Gazprom has already halted deliveries to some EU states.
The European Commission will urge countries to prepare for possible further cuts by slashing gas use. A draft of the EU plan would propose a voluntary target for countries to cut their gas demand over the next eight months, which could be made legally binding in a supply emergency.
EU officials said the target would be for a 10-15% cut in gas use.
The proposal, which could change before it is published, would need approval from EU countries that are largely responsible for their own energy policies.
There has been resistance from SME countries who feel their contingency plans do not need a boost from Brussels.
“We are against imposing mandatory reduction targets,” Polish climate minister Anna Moskwa said last week.
Poland has filled its gas storage to 98% of capacity after Russia halted gas deliveries to the country in April.
But EU officials say it is crucial to act now, rather than wait to react if Russia does cut supply.
“We believe that a full disruption is likely and it is especially likely if we don’t act and leave ourselves vulnerable to it,” one said.
“If we wait, it will be more expensive and it will mean us dancing to Russia’s tune.”
The draft document said a full Russian gas cut, combined with a cold winter, could cut the average EU GDP by 0.9-1.5% if countries had failed to prepare.
It suggested measures to curb gas use, including government tenders for the industry to receive compensation for using less gas. Governments should also decide the order in which they would force industries to close in a supply emergency, it said.
Gas deliveries are due to restart through Russia’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany on Thursday, after annual maintenance.
There have been fears among governments that flows will not restart, which would heighten a gas crisis that has sent consumer bills soaring. Sources say that flows would likely resume, but at below full capacity.