Lithuania and other EU Member States agree to reduce natural gas consumption and prepare for the upcoming heating season

Date

2022 07 26

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On 26 July, Vice-Minister of Energy Albinas Zananavičius attended the extraordinary meeting of the European Union (EU) Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council in Brussels, where representatives of the EU Member States discussed the most pressing issues of energy supply in preparation for the upcoming winter season. 

EU energy ministers were invited to reach a political agreement on a proposal for a Council Regulation on coordinated measures to reduce gas demand. They also exchanged views on the security of energy supply in the EU and other measures to be taken ahead of the coming winter. 

On 20 July, the European Commission presented the “Save gas for a safe winter” package which includes a proposal for a Council Regulation on gas demand reduction and a European gas demand reduction plan. Ministers also exchanged views on the initiatives presented and shared information on the current energy supply security situation in the countries. At dinner, EU representatives and Ukrainian Minister of Energy German Galushchenko held a discussion on energy cooperation between the EU and Ukraine.

The extraordinary meeting of the Council discussed the European Commission’s proposal to seek the solidarity of EU Member States to make a concerted effort to voluntarily reduce their natural gas consumption by means of measures of their own choice over the next 8 months, starting from 1 August this year, by at least 15 per cent compared to the average gas consumption over the same period in the last five years. In case of a substantial risk of a severe gas shortage or an exceptionally high gas demand, the possibility of triggering a “Union alert” is foreseen, which would imply a binding commitment for all EU Member States to reduce their respective natural gas consumption. 

Vice-Minister of Energy Mr Zananavičius, who took part in the discussion, noted: “Regardless of the measures taken, the market and the industry itself reacts to higher gas prices by reducing gas consumption. The reduction in gas consumption in Lithuania this year is expected to be higher than the EU agreed 15 per cent commitment. In response to higher gas prices, Lithuania is also taking steps to replace gas with other energy sources that will help it cope with rising gas prices in the short term, while maintaining Lithuania’s energy policy towards 100 per cent renewable energy in the long term.”

The negotiations on the obligation for EU Member States to take measures to reduce gas consumption also took into account the issues of particular importance to Lithuania. One such issue is that Lithuania and the other Baltic countries are still part of the Russian-controlled electricity system (IPS/UPS). This is a major energy security challenge for the Baltic countries, especially if the Baltic power grids were disconnected from the IPS/UPS system. An agreement was reached that in such a case Lithuania and the other Baltic countries would be exempted from the obligation to reduce their natural gas consumption since the higher demand would be needed to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the electricity system. Another important issue for Lithuania concerns the provision of certain more favourable conditions for critical industries, such as the chemical industry, which has the highest natural gas demand in Lithuania. 

A political agreement was reached at the extraordinary Council meeting, which is essential to prepare for the upcoming winter season and to avoid potential risks due to gas supply disruptions and the resulting gas shortages. For this reason, the representatives of the EU Member States, meeting as a matter of urgency, reached a solidary agreement on common commitments in record time. This agreement is a strong EU manifesto, demonstrating the EU’s unity and solidarity and sending a clear message to the markets and Russia.