Brussels to unveil emergency law to boost renewables over gas shortage fears

Brussels to unveil emergency law to boost renewables over gas shortage fears

The European Commission is to put forward a proposal for a temporary mechanism to fast-track renewable projects warning that the bloc is likely to miss its gas storage target ahead of next winter.

This proposed "new emergency regulation" was announced by Ursula von der Leyen to European lawmakers in Brussels on Wednesday and should allow the bloc to "replace 14 bcm (billion cubic metres) of gas" in 2023.

The emergency regulation will be made under Article 122 of the Treaty which enables the European Council, on the proposal of the Commission, to roll out measures to tackle severe difficulties that arise in the supply of certain products, especially energy.

Von der Leyen said the mechanism, which is to "be limited in time and scope", is necessary because the next gas filling season "will be even more challenging" than the previous one.

"Europe may fall short by some 30 billion cubic metres of gas for filling our storages," she warned.

This "considerable risk" stems from a combination of factors including further disruption of Russian gas deliveries to Europe, and the possible inability for producers of liquified natural gas (LNG) to fill in the gap, especially if economic growth in Asia means the region will increase its own purchases of LNG.

The EU passed legislation in June requiring EU countries to ensure their gas storage was filled at 80% capacity before 1 November and to 90% capacity before the 2023/2024 winter season.

Russia cut deliveries to the bloc via its Nord Stream 1 pipeline in late August, although it had already drastically cut supplies.

The EU has managed to find alternative supplies, largely via ship-delivered LNG and rolled out measures to save gas to ensure its economy could survive a normal winter.

Gas storage is now filled at around 95% capacity.

The EU's executive has also put forward a €225 billion REPowerEU package to diversify its energy sources and boost renewables and proposed another update to its Renewable Energy Directive to further increase the target for the share of renewables in the energy mix to 45% by 2030.

MEPs have already approved the updated Renewable Energy Directive but von der Leyen deplored that "it will take time - well over a year, before it is translated into national law by all member states."

The new mechanism, she said, "will be in line with what you have voted on."

"It will be bridging the gap, until the new Renewable Energy Directive comes into force. And by doing so, we can unlock a myriad of renewable projects already in the next 12 months. So this is a very decisive move right now."

"According to calculations by the International Energy Agency we could replace 14 bcm of gas already next year. That is almost half of our potential gap, I was just describing, just by speeding up the permitting of these projects. This is realistic and we can pull this off together," she added.

Renewable energy represented 22.1% of the energy consumed in the EU in 2020, according to data from Eurostat.

Sweden had the highest share, with 60.1% of its gross final energy consumption produced by renewables. It was followed by Finland and Latvia (43.8% and 42.1% respectively) while Belgium, Luxembourg and Malta were at the bottom of the table with lower teen readings.

An estimated 50 Gigawatt (GW) of further renewable energy was installed across the EU in 2022, a new record and double the amount rolled out the previous year.

"We could accelerate even more. There are countless renewable projects that are just waiting to be approved. Some could deliver cheap energy immediately, in a matter of weeks or months," von der Leyen told MEPs.