© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A gas installation is pictured at a Gaz-System gas compressor station in Rembelszczyzna, outside Warsaw October 13, 2010. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union has launched a platform for European Union countries to jointly buy gas and liquefied as they seek to cut reliance on Russian fuels and build a buffer against supply shocks.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Europe’s top gas supplier, pushed already-high energy prices to record peaks and put the EU on a mission to cut reliance on Russian fossil fuels by increasing imports from other countries and expanding renewable energy faster.
EU country leaders approved joint gas buying at a summit last month, which members including Spain and Greece had called for to provide a buffer against potential supply disruptions. Russia supplies 40% of EU gas.
The newly-formed platform of Commission and EU country representatives met on Thursday, and will pool countries’ demands and coordinate talks with major gas and LNG suppliers.
The scheme is voluntary and countries are not obliged to take part. It aims to use the EU’s clout as the world’s biggest gas buyer to attract supply “at stable prices that reflect the predictability and the size of the common EU market”, the Commission said in a statement.
European gas prices surged to record levels after Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, and analysts have warned that a dash from Europe to buy large volumes of non-Russian LNG could leave poorer countries struggling to afford the supply they need.
The EU has pledged to quit Russian fuels by 2027, and will unveil a detailed plan in May to do so.
EU gas storage is currently 26% full. Countries are negotiating a law requiring them to fill storage to at least 90% of capacity by Nov. 1 each year from 2023 and 80% this year, with some states concerned over how to share the cost of doing this.
The Commission said the platform will also support hydrogen buying, as the EU seeks to shift from fossil gas to low-carbon gases in future to meet its climate change goals.