Joint gas purchasing under the EU Energy Platform has been supported by a regulation which the EU-27 energy ministers adopted on December 19, 2022 to provide a necessary legal basis. It is another vital step in preparation for next winter; the EU institutions have made extensive efforts during 2022 to reduce Russian gas supply: the latest data shows that the EU states are already on track to reach the target of gas demand reduction by 15 percent.
However, next year could bring new challenges: according to the International Energy Agency, the EU might face a potential shortfall of some 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
The EU Energy Platform was initiated in April 2022 in response to the need to diversify from Russian gas and support all EU states and Energy Community Contracting Parties in securing gas supplies for the winter 2023/2024; hence, a dedicated task force has been created to support the process. An Industry Advisory Group has been established to meeting regularly to assist the Commission in providing the industrial dimension; five regional groups have been set up to identify the needs, opportunities for common use of infrastructure and potential new suppliers.
In the “joint purchasing”, it should be as inclusive as possible, open to all EU states and the Energy Community Contracting Parties, including countries with limited diversification options, and all companies that wish to participate regardless of their size. Jointly purchasing gas through a consortium can limit the risk of European companies outbidding each other in a way that harms our citizens and industry.
In another critical element of joint purchasing is optimisation of infrastructure: the EU and the states must remove existing bottlenecks and (through “free capacity”) to ensure that LNG terminals and underground storages are ready to receive jointly procured gas. To that effect, the EU will launch a new booking system. Besides, four new energy-gas interconnectors have become operational during 2022: the Baltic Pipe, the one between Poland and Lithuania, the interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece, and the gas interconnector between Poland and Slovakia.
The EU next steps in the energy sector will be the following: a) first, to select a service provider in the beginning of 2023 to organise the IT platform for demand aggregation; b) second, the Commission will publish the aggregated demand and organise tenders to attract supply offers in early spring; and c) the Commission will conclude first joint purchasing – including through long-term contracts – with gas suppliers well before summer 2023.
The EU Eurobarometer pool called “EU’s response to the energy crisis” conducted in the 27 states during November 2022 has shown that over 26 thousand citizens have been interviewed online. Most respondents say (85%) that rising energy prices have had a negative impact on their purchasing power; about 56% agree that recent price increases are mainly due to Russia’s aggression while 38% disagree; about half respondents think that measures taken by the EU to improve the economic situation will have a positive impact and 18% that they will have a negative impact and 22% that they will have no impact at all. Besides, 87% of respondents believe that it is vital to protect critical energy and data infrastructures (e.g. pipelines and internet cables), and 83% also agree that the price of electricity should not depend on the price of gas.