European Union countries have agreed to fill all natural gas storage facilities to at least 80 percent of capacity by next winter, as they prepare for the possibility of further cuts in supplies from Russia.
The EU is trying to reduce its use of Russian energy amid the war in Ukraine and find other sources. A ban on Russian coal imports will go into effect in August, and an embargo on most oil from Russia will be phased in over the next eight months, AP reported.
Moscow has cut gas supplies to several EU countries, including major importers Germany and Italy, and has also cut supplies to other members such as Poland and Finland.
The EU Council adopted the gas storage rules after the European Commission made a proposal in March. The ruling also states that underground gas storage facilities across the EU must be 90 percent full by the winter of 2023-2024.
At a summit in Brussels last week, the heads of state and government agreed to step up preparations for further cuts in gas supplies from Russia and to continue looking for other suppliers. The EU has already increased supplies from the U.S., Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan.
Some EU members do not have storage facilities, so the regulation stipulates that they must store 15 percent of their annual national gas consumption in other member states, giving them access to reserves in other EU countries.
Cyprus, Malta and Ireland, which are not directly connected to the gas system of other members, received an exception, the council said, with the obligation ending at the end of December 2025.
The council also agreed to increase the share of renewables in the bloc's energy mix to at least 40 percent by 2030, up from its previous goal of 32 percent. In addition, the goal to reduce energy consumption by 9% by 2030 becomes mandatory for all EU member states for the first time.
Agnes Pannier-Runacher, the French energy minister, said the agreement is important to achieve EU climate neutrality by 2050, as well as to help reduce our energy dependence on Russia in the context of the war in Ukraine.