EU proposes extending energy crisis measure to curb gas demand
Brussels, March 20 (Reuters) - The European Commission on Monday proposed that EU countries extend for a year an emergency measure to curb gas demand for the next 12 months, to help prepare Europe to get through next winter with scarce Russian gas.
Europe is emerging from winter with a more stable energy supply than was feared last year, after Russia cut off most gas supplies in the months following its invasion of Ukraine - squeezing supply and triggering record-high prices.
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The Commission said countries should extend, from April until March 2024, a voluntary target to curb their gas demand by 15% versus their 2017-2022 average consumption. The target was due to expire at the end of March.
EU countries slashed their combined gas use by 19% from August to January 2023 helped by an unusually warm winter.
Soaring prices helped curb industrial output and the EU and national governments encouraged consumers to reduce their energy consumption.
As a result, Europe is approaching the end of winter with unusually high levels of gas in storage.
They also have a more stable supply outlook after rapidly expanding renewable energy to help displace Russian gas and building infrastructure to take in imports of fuel from alternative suppliers.
Risks remain, including cold weather or increased Chinese gas demand which could reduce supply available for European buyers.
The Commission said continued gas demand curbs are needed if countries are to fill their gas storage to 90% of capacity by November - a binding target EU countries agreed last year to help avert winter shortages.
EU energy ministers will discuss the target at a meeting in Brussels on Mar. 28.
Officials said not all countries are on board with extending the measure - though as it required support from EU member states representing at least 65% of the bloc's total population, some said it appeared likely to win approval.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Jason Neely)