By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Parliament lawmakers, negotiating emergency rules to fill Europe’s gas storage, are pushing for a deal in the next two months to build a supply buffer in time for winter when gas demand for heating peaks.
As the bloc seeks to reduce the leverage of Moscow, which supplies around 40% of EU gas, and prepares for potential supply disruptions, the proposed rules would require countries to fill their gas storage to at least 90% of capacity by Nov. 1 each year from 2023 and 80% this year.
EU lawmaker Jerzy Buzek, former Polish prime minister and Parliament’s lead lawmaker on the rules, said Parliament’s team hoped to start talks with EU countries in two weeks and strike a deal lawmakers could vote on in June. Parliament and EU countries must both approve the law.
It can take around two years to negotiate and approve an EU law, but the gas rules have been fast-tracked.
Outstanding issues include what the EU would do if countries failed to fill their storage, and whether this year’s filling target should also be 90%. EU gas storage is currently 29% full.
“We need to define precisely the set of effective measures taken by the Commission in case EU countries fail systematically to reach the filling targets,” Buzek told parliament’s energy committee.
The Commission’s proposed rules would require countries to take “all necessary measures” to fill their storage, including potential compensation for the companies involved in buying the gas.
EU countries are wrangling over how states with little or no storage will share the burden of buying stocks to fill storage in other countries at prices that have jumped multiple times since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Slovenian lawmaker Klemen Groselj, another negotiator on the gas rules, said the market impact needed assessing, as forcing countries to buy gas to fill storage could hike prices further.
Separately, the EU is setting up a system to allow EU countries to jointly buy gas, in the hope their combined buying power will allow them to negotiate lower prices.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Barbara Lewis)