The European Commission has formally proposed emergency legislation that could see it impose a binding 15 per cent cut to gas consumption by EU countries over the next two years.

If it passes, the legislation will come into force on 1st August, and will be voluntary until 31st March 2023, effectively running from the middle of summer, through the energy-intensive autumn and winter, and ending with the beginning of spring.

The regulation would also give the Commission the power to activate an EU-wide alert if it deems there is a “substantial risk of a severe gas shortage”, making the 15 per cent target mandatory.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on the aggressor by the European Union continues to have a significant impact on the bloc’s energy supply, and it is feared that gas supplies through the Nord Stream gas pipeline, currently suspended for annual maintenance, could be cut off entirely.

“The recent escalation of disruptions of gas supply from Russia points to significant risk that a complete and protracted halt of Russian gas supplies may materialise in an abrupt and unilateral way,” the Commission said in a memo accompanying the proposal.

“Taking action now can reduce both the risk and the costs for Europe in case of further or full disruption.”

If the measure passes, EU member states would have to update their national emergency plans by September to detail how they plan to achieve the voluntary cuts, and provide updates to the Commission on progress every two months.

Should those cuts become binding, individual countries can apply to revise down their mandatory target by 5 percent under certain circumstances.

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