In the event of a gas emergency, EU states should be able to be forced to save gas, according to the will of the European Commission. Specifically, the Brussels authority proposed on Wednesday that binding reduction targets should be possible if not enough is saved voluntarily.

First of all, the EU countries should voluntarily do everything they can to reduce their consumption in the coming months by 15 percent compared to the average of the past five years. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels on Wednesday that she considered a complete stop to gas supplies from Russia to the EU to be likely.

According to von der Leyen, a complete stop in deliveries would hit all EU countries hard. At the same time, she stressed that the EU could overcome the difficulties if it acted as one.

The EU states still have to agree to the plan to reduce gas consumption by 15 percent. A prerequisite for the introduction of mandatory savings targets would be that at least three states or the EU Commission fear acute emergency situations due to an undersupply of gas.

It was initially unclear whether and to what extent Germany would have to further reduce its gas consumption in order to achieve the 15 percent target.

In the first five months of the year, gas consumption in Germany was a good 14 percent lower than in the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs. “Even adjusted for temperature effects, gas consumption in the current year was 6.4 percent below the value for the same period last year,” it said, referring to figures from the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries.

According to a preliminary draft of the emergency plan, which was made public before the meeting, the Commission has drawn up further proposals as to which industries would be supplied with gas in addition to the protected households in an emergency.

Drafts of the plan envisage, among other things, that public buildings, offices and commercial buildings should be heated to a maximum of 19 degrees and cooled down to no less than 25 degrees with air conditioning, provided that this is technically possible. In general, consumers, like other consumers of gas, are called upon to save.

In general, there are already uniform rules in the EU for the event of a gas emergency, which are anchored in the so-called SoS regulation. This regulates, for example, which customers should still be supplied with gas in an emergency. Households and essential social services are given special treatment as protected consumers. They enjoy a special status and can be given priority by the member countries.

Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) had already made it clear that in the event of a gas shortage, all consumers would have to make contributions to save energy. Exactly how this will be implemented is not yet clear.

The Commission’s draft suggests that companies should already reduce their gas consumption or switch to other energy sources. Companies could receive financial incentives for this.

According to the currently applicable EU rules, industry is generally not considered a protected consumer in an emergency, for example, and its supply would be shut down in the worst case. Theoretically, German industry would have to sell gas to households in a neighboring country like Austria if the country cannot supply itself in any other way and Germany also has no other supplies.

Conversely, German households would be supplied by the industry of neighboring countries if the worst came to the worst. This would be the very last resort and would probably only occur if gas became scarce in several countries at the same time. The exact modalities would then have to be worked out.