The European Commission will today urge member states including Ireland to immediately conserve gas due to the likelihood of shortages this winter.
It is also set to raise the European Union's emergency supply status to the second-highest level of alert, amid fears that Russia could suddenly cut supplies in retaliation for European support for Ukraine.
Europe is racing to build a supply buffer and a draft of an EU plan, seen by Reuters, proposes a voluntary target for countries to cut their gas demand over the next eight months, which could be made legally binding in a supply emergency.
EU officials said the target would be for a 10 to 15 per cent cut in gas use. The proposal, which could change before it is published, would need approval from EU countries who are largely responsible for their own energy policies.
Natural gas is Ireland’s second-largest energy source, supplying about a third of the country’s energy in 2020. The country is largely dependent on imports via pipeline from the UK – which itself imports a large amount of its gas.
Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly believes the situation leaves Ireland in a vulnerable position.
“We’re dependent on basically one pipeline coming in from the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union so it can do what it likes, and if there’s a shortage do you think they’re going to prioritise Ireland? I don’t think so,” he said.
“Everybody now is going to be looking to Norway, who supplies most of the gas to Europe... but we’re now going to be in competition for it, especially over the coming winter. So it’s a very serious situation – we need to wake up.
“They are now going to have the second-highest warning level of alert to European countries, that they need to prepare for what would be most likely shortages and reductions during the coming winter.
“Where Ireland is concerned, we really need to wake up to what’s happening. We seem to have our head in the sand, as if there was no war in Ukraine, our policy hasn’t changed one iota.”