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MEPs back draft law on gas supply security

An EU country with a gas shortage could call on other member states to help under a draft law approved by a European Parliament committee.18 Oct 2016

Under the proposed "regional solidarity mechanism", endorsed by the Energy Committee, gas would be supplied via supply corridors that link countries in seven "cooperation" regions, the Parliament said.

Countries would be able to ask for help when the security and health of their households and emergency services, known as "protected customers", is at risk and the shortage cannot be made up through emergency plans.

The Committee amended the draft proposal to ensure that supplying gas supply to households and essential services in a country that has called for emergency supplies would take priority over supplying it to any other category of consumers in the EU country that is able to help the member state in need. They also called for the definition of "protected customers" to be harmonised across the EU.

The solidarity mechanism is "a last resort, and should include appropriate compensation to mitigate the consequences for any market parties involved", the Parliament said.

The committee also approved a separate draft law that would require countries to notify the European Commission when they negotiate energy supply deals with third parties.

Details of energy supply contracts longer than one year should be communicated to the relevant authorities and the European Commission in order to provide an overview of the EU energy market and ensure its rules are respected, the Parliament said.

If the Commission finds the terms of a gas supply contract could affect uninterrupted gas flow in the EU, "it may consider launching further procedures … under Union competition law", the Parliament said.

The European Commission has been looking at ways to share gas supplies as it is keen to avoid a repeat of problems in eastern European countries in 2006 and 2009 when gas supplies from Russia were interrupted.

According to the Financial Times earlier this year, the Commission proposed nine energy zones, with nations in each zone expected to build joint stocks and infrastructure.

The Commission said in 2014 that it planned to form a "high-level working group" to coordinate proposals for expanding the EU’s gas supply infrastructure, including cross-border projects to diversify gas supplies.

According to figures released by the Commission at the time, the EU imports 53% of the energy it consumes, at a cost of more than €1 billion a day. Almost 90% of crude oil is imported and 66% of natural gas comes from sources outside the EU, the Commission said. Russia was the source of 33% of the EU's oil imports and 42% of its natural gas imports in 2013.

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