Committee Vote on Gas Supply

The European Parliament’s Industry Research and Energy Committee has called for the installation of reverse-flows in key parts of Europe’s energy infrastructure. This was one of several key compromise amendments that were voted on in committee on 18 March 2010.  The Committee’s Draft Report on the Commission proposal for a Regulation on the security of gas supply was adopted by 52 votes in favour, 1 against and no abstentions.
 
This vote was carried on the basis of compromise amendments negotiated by the main political groups. Another key compromise amendment was a call for greater clarification of the definition of protected customers.
 
In addition to the compromise amendments, MEPs added clarifications and more stringent provisions concerning the communication of confidential or commercially sensitive data. Adopting an amendment tabled by the Rapporteur Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca (EPP, ES), MEPs also introduced some amendments to the N-1 indicator calculation method, which would modify Annex 1 of the Commission proposal.
 
The Industry Committee also wants to see stricter requirements for the monitoring of gas supply measures by the Commission, including contracts concluded between Member States and third countries with regard to their conformity with the EU internal market rules. The European Parliament plenary vote has been indicatively set for 19 May 2010.
 
The Rapporteur published his Draft Report in November 2009. Key changes brought forward in the Draft Report were the following:
• Non-market measures have to be used exclusively in extreme circumstances and at last resort. The Commission proposal didn’t underline this enough, according to the Rapporteur. 
• More proportionality in sharing out common infrastructure costs. 
• Bidirectional flows should be compulsory. 
• Commission should carry out a risk assessment and a prior plan for dealing with emergencies. There has to be an EU-level preventative plan. 
• The Gas Coordination Group should have to be more involved in moments of crisis. It could issue recommendations and come up with prevention plans. 
• Thresholds for declaring community emergency should be clarified. Measures relating to geographically defined issues should be strengthened. European solidarity should be further emphasized.
 
The Council Presidency on the other hand expects to find an agreement in the Energy Council, which is due to be held on 31 May 2010. Its formal position will follow a few months later. It is also expected that Council and Parliament will negotiate an informal inter-institutional agreement in view of reaching a first reading agreement on this proposal.
 
The proposal for a Regulation was adopted by the Commission on 14 July 2009. The Commission proposes to improve gas supply security through better regional coordination of gas supply networks and improved monitoring of gas supplies. It therefore proposes the adoption of a Regulation to replace Directive 2004/67/EC. The proposal aims to improve the EU's security of supply with various measures targeted on market mechanisms combined with emergency measures. The Commission proposed the following provisions:
• Member States would designate a Competent Authority responsible for the measures set out in the Regulation ( i.e. preventive and emergency plans, risk assessment every 2 years, monitoring, ensuring supply to vulnerable customers during cold weather). 
• Infrastructure standard (N-1): Competent Authorities would have to ensure that infrastructure meets the N-1 indicator which indicates if the infrastructure can provide a backup in the event of a disruption of the largest gas infrastructure in a certain area. Annex 1 of the proposal sets the methodology to calculate the N-1 indicator. 
• Competent Authorities would design Preventive Action Plans and Emergency Plans: the Preventive Action Plan shall contain measures to be taken to fulfill infrastructure standards (N-1), a risk assessment and measures to prevent them, information on Public Service Obligations. The Regulation would set three crisis levels (Early Warning, Alert and Emergency). Emergency Plans would define roles in case of emergency, cooperation measures with other Member States, actions to make gas available and to ensure cross-border access to storage facilities in case of emergency. Competent Authorities would have to immediately inform the Commission if one of the levels is reached and of the actions taken. 
• EU response to emergency: the Regulation would lay down a procedure to follow when Commission declares an EU Emergency. 
• Gas Coordination Group would be maintained. The proposal also indicates that various EU funding is available for investments in infrastructure and local production. Switching to biofuels is promoted in so far as they can be applied quickly and reduce demand enough to have an impact on the supply disruption.