Spain and Portugal will fight in Brussels to limit the cut in gas consumption

There has been no room for doubt. The Government is totally opposed to the proposal made by the European Commission for the reduction of gas consumption, considering that it represents a disadvantage for Spain with respect to other European countries. Government sources point out that Germany "is pushing very hard" to impose a mandatory lowering framework throughout the EU due to the delicate situation in which it finds itself due to its absolute dependence on Russia in the face of the possibility that Vladimir Putin will close the gas pipeline tap that nourishes you "Spain does not support this proposal," the Third Vice President and Minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, clearly rejected: "We will not allow proposals that make us suffer beyond what is required of other community partners." A message that goes in parallel to the one that Portugal has also launched.

Brussels foresees rationing and a mandatory 15% reduction in gas consumption in case Putin turns off the tap

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The Spanish Executive had already transferred its opposition to the mandatory reduction targets to the community government, understanding that the situation in Spain is incomparable with that of other countries. The proposal from Brussels, for which government sources assure that the European Commission does not have a majority to carry it forward in the Council of Energy Ministers next Tuesday, raises a scenario of voluntary reduction of 15% of gas consumption that would become mandatory if Russia turns off the tap.

This is where Spain is against and will do battle within the EU. In fact, Ribera defended that the European Council must be convened so that the leaders are the ones who give a new political orientation to the European Commission. "We will resist obligations that are above the efforts that are requested from other partners," the vice president sentenced after the community institution ignored the government's warnings. Pedro Sánchez transferred his reticence to the president, Ursula Von der Layen, in a phone call this weekend. “Now to fight with the Council”, they recognize in the Government. It will not be the first tough negotiation in Brussels: there are precedents such as the EU Next Generation funds or the energy system in which Spain and Portugal achieved the Iberian exception to put a price cap on gas in the face of resistance from several countries. Now a new battle opens with the gas, once again, in focus.

What the Government argues is that, on the one hand, Spain would not be affected by the Russian cut since it only represents 10% of the total supply. But, above all, he maintains that Spain is already carrying out an "exercise of solidarity" with surrounding countries, especially with Portugal and France, which receives gas through two gas pipelines that are "working at full capacity" and benefits from the mechanism Iberian in the purchase of electricity. "We are going to get as close as possible to the voluntary objective of 15% and we will continue to contribute in solidarity with neighboring countries," state government sources.

Beyond the reduction in consumption – which the Government maintains will never mean rationing for households – government sources point to commercial criteria behind Germany's pressure on the European Commission. “If they force us to a binding objective, it will be necessary to decree supply cuts to certain industries. We cannot accept that it forces us to cut production so that the German one continues to work”, they explain.

In fact, the plan that the Community Executive has approved already winks at Spain and Portugal, to try to win their support. As both countries have a limited interconnection capacity, which in the words of the Government makes us "almost an energy island", this reduced interconnection may allow the cut in gas consumption, if mandatory, to remain at 10%. An option that, although it represents a reduction compared to the general 15%, is not the preferred option either. What the Government is looking for, as Ribera stressed on Wednesday, is that if Europe wants a joint plan to redefine gas consumption, all member countries feel and Spain, which has regasification in its hands in this matter, has a voice and vote. "When you ask for support and help, you have to work with those who are asked for support and help," he pointed out. “We are not going to be like others in other contexts.” In other words, Spain will show solidarity with the same countries that demanded that we cut the welfare state in the last financial crisis.

Front with Portugal against Germany

Spain is not alone in this response to Brussels, but we can speak of an Iberian front. This Monday, the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, also delved into the fact that the citizens of his country have made a high economic effort to have an electrical system based on renewables and with zero dependence on Russia.

“We are going to be in solidarity, but solidarity also means that we are not going to make the Portuguese pay to compensate for the delay in which others placed themselves when they could have made an investment in renewables of 17,000 million that we did,” Costa said. during the inauguration of an Iberdrola renewable plant.

A speech, similar to the one launched this Wednesday by Ribera, which advocates solidarity, precisely, between the two countries that last spring They have been negotiating with Brussels for weeks to implement a cap on gas, the so-called Iberian exceptionto contain the price of electricity in the midst of an inflationary escalation, due to the high weight of gas in its energy mix.

Spain and Portugal also pull their high investment in renewables. “Germany has bet everything on a strategy that was Russian gas. We are committed to renewables with the cost that this entailed”, they claim from the department of Ribera, where they also point to the network of regasification plants, which now allow the EU to be supplied with liquefied natural gas (LNG) and to be accelerating during the summer reservations compared to previous years.

Along these lines, Minister Ribera emphasized that "our storage capacity is at more than 80% and the rest of Europe is at 50%" and that we have "a third of the regasification capacity", which has been financed by the consumers and by industry. By December, these reserves must be at 90% and must be sufficient to guarantee supply for 27 winter days.

Supply capacity requirements – not just gas, but also electricity – that may change, given that the Executive has been holding meetings in recent weeks with all the actors who have something to say about energy supply needs. Both last week and this week, the Minister of Ecological Transition has met with energy companies, consumers, spokespersons for the different political parties with a parliamentary presence or social agents, among others, in order to draw up a contingency plan with which to deal with to a winter without Russian gas in Europe.

The main message that Ribera has conveyed to his parliamentary interlocutors is one of "tranquility", according to various sources consulted, regarding the winter that awaits Spain. The vice president guarantees, in public and in private, that there will be no supply cuts for homes. “The EU does not consider rationing families. Nor is there going to be a lack of fuel at gas stations", they affirm from Ecological Transition, whose plan is to promote energy saving -in line with Sánchez's message in the debate on the state of the nation-, take advantage of current structures and encourage that they serve to feed other neighboring countries, and accelerate the process of renewables.

In this 'no' to the demands of the Commission, the large Spanish industry is also present, assuming that, if there are cuts, they will be in the front line, to avoid cuts to domestic consumers and essential services. This Tuesday, the Alliance for the Competitiveness of the Spanish Industry - which brings together ANFAC and SERNAUTO (automotive), AOP (refining), ASPAPEL (paper), FEIQUE (chemicals and pharmaceuticals), FIAB (food and beverages), OFICEMEN (cement ), PRIMIGEA (mineral raw materials) and UNESID (steel industry)– launched a joint message very much in line with that of the Executive. "Forcing industrial shutdowns in countries where it is not necessary will aggravate the shortage of essential products throughout Europe and increase the economic impact of the crisis, putting the functioning of the entire value chain of the European economy at risk," the employers. "A proposal such as the one envisaged requires full scrutiny by the Community institutions, and the European Parliament and Council cannot be evaded from its debate."

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