After meeting with social agents, consumer and energy organisations, the Vice President of the Government and Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera, has now sat down with representatives of different political parties to prepare the contingency plan with which Europe wants to face a winter without Russian gas. Brussels today presents some tools with which it hopes to resist if Putin finally turns off the fuel tap. Actually, the idea is to survive without his gas even though they can freely access him. The role of Spain, which does not depend on these gas pipelines, will be key and large industry asks that no cuts be made.

According to Ribera, the European states are working “on drawing up contingency plans to prepare for a gas shortage scenario in the EU as a result of the war in Ukraine.” At the meeting, United We Can proposed a line of aid that allows citizens to change their gas boilers for other technologies that do not depend on this fuel, according to Europa Press.

Last week, Nord Stream interrupted its activity for routine and scheduled maintenance that, however, Europe fears will be permanent. This Thursday it should work again, although, in any case, it is not known at what rate, since Gazprom had considerably reduced the flow. According to AFP reports, the company sent a notice to its customers in which it retroactively invoked “force majeure” to justify past and current supply cuts.

The Alliance for the Competitiveness of the Spanish Industry, which brings together employers from sectors such as the automotive, refining, steel and food industries, has sent a letter to Teresa Ribera in which it asks the Government to “frontally oppose” the proposal of the European Commission. Specifically, the one that, according to the documents that have been leaked, would establish an alert system that would force member states to reduce their gas consumption when requested by the Commission itself or at the request of two states.

“The Alliance offers the Government its support in everything it deems necessary to defend the interests of Spain and oppose this proposal,” the organization said in a statement. And they do so because they consider that “it makes no sense to impose reductions in gas consumption in all countries equally, regardless of their particular situation and whether or not the unconsumed gas may or may not be exported and consumed by other countries of the Union” . Carrying out forced industrial stoppages, they say, “will aggravate the shortage of essential products throughout Europe and increase the economic impact of the crisis, putting at risk the functioning of the entire value chain of the European economy.”

In addition, they consider it “incoherent” that precisely Spain, which has made a large investment to diversify the origin of its gas and not depend exclusively on one exporter, is now exposed to production cuts by the European Commission. “A proposal such as the one envisaged requires full scrutiny by the Community institutions, not being able to hide the European Parliament and Council from its debate,” they lament.

The draft of the Commission document, consulted by Corriere della Sera, includes measures that go in this line of reducing consumption. All the gas saved now can be used in winter, when it will not only feed the combined cycle plants, but also Europe’s heating systems. It is estimated that around a third of all gas is used for this purpose.

Thus, Brussels asks for a “coordinated saving in demand”, which “could limit the negative impact on GDP”. Among the specific tools, it stands out, for example, the obligation to set limits on heating and cooling in public buildings: 19 degrees in the first case and 25 in the second. Auctions and tenders are also contemplated to encourage the reduction of consumption by industries that have a greater appetite for energy.

In this sense, reference is made to interruptibility contracts -in those industrial clients that are in more exposed areas and could see their supply cut off in cases of emergency- or production reduction -in less exposed areas-. Polluting sources such as coal or in the process of being dismantled such as nuclear (which, in any case, recently received a boost by being considered ‘green’ from a taxonomic point of view) are also now seen as viable alternatives, at least temporarily . It is even considered turning a blind eye to the environmental bar.

During the preparation of the plan, the Government also asked Red Eléctrica for a report “on different extreme scenarios that include situations of shortage of natural gas or other energy products”. In it, he wondered if it would be necessary to resort to the thermal plants that have requested closure and have not yet been dismantled -As Pontes, Aboño and Alcudia-, an alternative that Germany has already activated. However, Spain hardly uses coal for its energy generation.

In any case, Spain’s gas reserves are at a good level, as Arturo Gonzalo, CEO of Enagás, recently explained during the presentation of the company’s strategic plan for the 2022-2030 period. Thus, the underground warehouses are 73.25%, two points above the amount set for August. In the case of fuel contained in regasification plants, it reaches 84%. Soon El Musel will join, the plant closed by court order in Gijón that will be used as a warehouse for ships from other European Union countries to load their tanks.

These plants give Spain, the third country in the world in regasification plants, a leading role in the new energy context: it has 34% of the regasification capacity of all of Europe and 44% of the LNG storage. In addition, between 60% and 75% of the infrastructure can be reused when the alternative, green hydrogen, prevails. The only problem, at the moment, is how much can be sent to other countries with the current connections, the two ‘tubes’ that link the peninsula with France. In the future there is a third planned for the Pyrenees and one more that will connect with Italy.

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