The Council has definitively adopted a regulation aiming to ensure that gas storage capacities in the EU are filled before the winter season and can be shared between member states in a spirit of solidarity, despite disruptions in the gas market. This is an important step in strengthening the security of the EU’s energy supply in the context of the war in Ukraine.
Having concluded negotiations in less than two months, the EU now has a tool which requires all member states to have adequate gas storage for the winter period and which makes it easier for countries to share. I welcome this highly operational regulation which, in the current international context, allows us to reinforce Europe’s energy resilience and actual solidarity among member states.
Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister for the Energy Transition
The regulation provides that underground gas storage on member states’ territory must be filled to at least 80% of their capacity before the winter of 2022/2023 and to 90% before the following winter periods. Overall, the EU will attempt collectively to fill 85% of the total underground gas storage capacity in the EU in 2022.
As gas storage capacities and national situations vary greatly, depending on their situation, member states will be able to partially meet the storage target by counting stocks of liquefied natural gas (LNG) or alternative fuels. To reflect the situation of member states with very large storage capacities compared to their domestic gas consumption, the filling obligation for underground stocks will be limited to a volume corresponding to 35% of the average annual gas consumption of member states over the last 5 years.
Some member states do not have storage facilities on their territory, and so the regulation provides that they should store 15% of their annual domestic gas consumption in stocks located in other member states and thus have access to gas reserves stored in other member states. This mechanism will strengthen the security of their gas supply while also sharing the financial burden involved in filling the EU’s storage capacities.
The regulation also provides for compulsory certification of all underground gas storage site operators by the authorities of the member states concerned. The aim of this certification is to avoid the potential risks of external influence on critical storage infrastructures, which could jeopardise the security of the EU’s energy supply and other essential security interests. A fast-track certification procedure is to apply for storage sites with capacities above 3.5 TWh which were filled at levels below the EU average in 2020 and 2021.
Storage capacity filling obligations will come to an end on 31 December 2025, but stock operator certification obligations will continue to apply beyond that date. The regulation also provides for a derogation to be granted to Cyprus, Malta and Ireland as long as they are not directly interconnected with the gas system of other member states.
Background and next steps
The European Commission presented the proposal for a regulation on 23 March 2022. The proposal modifies two existing regulations on security of gas supply and access to natural gas transmission networks.
In its conclusions of 24 and 25 March 2022, the European Council instructed the Council to examine the Commission’s proposals, taking due account of and respecting the interests of member states with significant storage capacity in order to ensure a fair balance between member states. The European Council considered that the replenishment of gas stocks across the Union should start as soon as possible, taking full account of national preparedness measures.
The Council and the European Parliament reached an agreement during interinstitutional negotiations which took place on 19 May. The Parliament adopted the text on 23 June. Adoption by the Council closes the procedure. The regulation will shortly be published in the Official Journal of the EU, and will enter into force on the day after its publication.