Soaring prices for fuel and low gas storage levels force Brussels to ?improve risk-preparedness?
The European Union is in talks with its trading partners in search of viable options to increase supplies of natural gas to its member states, according to the bloc's Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson.
"The gas storage levels in the EU are significantly lower than usual at this time of the year," Simson said, after a meeting with European energy ministers in France on Saturday.
The energy chief added that EU authorities need to remain "extremely vigilant" to make sure the bloc is ready for emergency situations at a time of unusually low gas storage levels, along with increased tensions beyond its eastern borders.
"The Commission is also discussing with our partners the potential to increase supplies to Europe," she added.
Last year, Europe was hit by an unprecedented energy crunch that sent gas and power prices skyrocketing, and forced several industrial giants in the region to curb production, while households had to struggle with persistently rising bills for electricity and heating.
The severe energy crisis has recently been exacerbated when storage tanks in the EU dropped to their lowest seasonal levels in more than ten years. The decline reportedly occurred due to longer-than-usual maintenance at Norwegian fields and to Russia restocking its own inventories.
Moreover, the latest speculation over probable military conflict between Russia and Ukraine is also fueling concerns about Russian gas supply. The US and Western allies have pledged to impose a new series of sanctions against Moscow in the event of an invasion. The sanctions may reportedly target Russian energy sales.
"My message is that Europe has a robust, well diversified and resilient gas infrastructure and clear procedures of solidarity in case of emergencies," Simson stressed, calling for even stronger solidarity between member states.
According to the European Commission, among the bloc's 27 member states, 22 have implemented the necessary steps to cushion the impact of the energy crisis, such as lower taxation and duties, direct income support and vouchers.
Such measures have reportedly helped some 70 million individual customers and several million small- and medium-sized companies.The bloc's authorities are also discussing draft rules to improve their coordination on gas storage, as well as to enable voluntary purchases of strategic gas reserves. EU member states have also been seeking to reform its power market.
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