UK and EU must ‘urgently’ agree contingency energy plan, say Lords

The British government should “urgently” strike a deal with the EU to cooperate on emergency energy supplies in the event that Russia triggers a severe shortage by cutting off gas exports to the continent, a committee said on Thursday. influential in the House of Lords.

The Lords Economic Affairs Committee has warned there is no concrete agreement between Britain and the bloc on how to handle an energy supply emergency, despite their interdependence on trade gas and electricity via submarine cables and pipelines.

“This is something we need to grasp urgently,” committee chairman Lord George Bridges told the Financial Times. “What was considered very unlikely, but a few months ago, now seems more likely, and so we need to have a plan.”

Bridges’ comments came after the EU on Wednesday asked all member states to cut gas demand by 15% from August 1, warning of the serious risk of further Russian supply cuts.

Gas interconnectors between Britain and the mainland have operated at maximum capacity in recent months to help the bloc fill its gas storage facilities ahead of winter, with large volumes of liquefied natural gas arriving at UK ports before being sent to the mainland. However, Britain, which has limited gas storage capacity, has traditionally relied on imports from the EU during the winter when demand is greatest.

Unusually, Britain has also been a net exporter of electricity to the EU since April, as gas-fired power plants take advantage of increased LNG shipments to generate electricity for member states, including the France, whose vast network of nuclear reactors is struggling. Britain normally depends on net imports from the continent, particularly if wind and solar farms do not generate significant amounts.

The commission’s plea echoes the words of ENTSOG, which represents European gas groups. He said last month that political arrangements were needed across Europe “to know what we can expect from each other as neighboring countries in the event of a serious crisis”.

Individual countries each have contingency plans, but energy companies have warned that these are designed to deal with short-term outages of, say, a gas field or a pipeline rather than disasters. prolonged shortages.

The EU on Wednesday published its own contingency plan to save gas. The plan noted that, since the start of this year, the block had received an additional 14 billion cubic meters of gas via pipelines from four regions, including the United Kingdom, but did not mention a supply agreement with the Great Britain. -Brittany.

“The [European] The Commission will remain vigilant to protect the single market,” he added.

Under the UK’s gas contingency plan, interconnectors would be shut down by National Grid – which oversees the energy system – in the event of a severe shortage threatening the stability of the system.

An EU official insisted the European Commission was “in close contact with the UK Government on these matters”, adding that the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement post- Brexit set out rules “for cooperation in risk preparedness and an obligation not to endanger mutual security of supply”.

The British government did not directly respond to the question of an energy co-operation agreement, but insisted that the country had “no gas or electricity supply problems” and was “fully prepared to any scenario”.

The Economic Affairs Committee also called on ministers to publish an energy demand reduction strategy, following an inquiry into security of supply and how to achieve net zero emissions.

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