Spain goes on the attack against the latest proposal from Brussels, which means that all European countries cut their gas consumption by 15% until next spring, regardless of their degree of exposure to Russia. “We cannot assume a disproportionate sacrifice on which they have not even asked us for a prior opinion,” said the third vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, in a practically monothematic press conference hours after the European Commission unveiled a plan that does not consider the “most effective or fairest.” Whatever happens, she has said, “Spanish families are not going to suffer gas or electricity cuts in their homes.”
The person in charge of Energy of the Government has opted for “savings and efficiency” in gas consumption, but has assured that the Executive is not considering the hypothesis of restricting it to “any type of consumer”. Spain, he stated, defends European values and will show solidarity with the rest of the Union, “but not at the expense of domestic and industrial consumers”, who have been paying “a very high bill for a long time” and who “do not deserve restrictions no rationing.” “Spain is a country committed to solidarity, but we have to see what is the best way to offer solidarity, which is probably more linked to the ability to use our infrastructures to support the Member States that depended on gas, which came through gas pipeline”.
Ribera’s statements, which have used an unusually harsh tone on the Brussels proposal, come hours after community officials proposed a linear cut in gas consumption in the face of Putin’s threats, without distinction by country. It is something striking, since the dependency of the Eurasian giant is very variable between some countries and others, but the community argument is that this would free up export capacity in alternative suppliers to Russia.
The hardness also contrasts with the general good atmosphere with the European authorities, especially that they gave the go-ahead – after several tugs of war – to the so-called Iberian exception, the mechanism that has made it possible to set a cap on the price of the gas they feed combined cycle plants and that has enabled a reduction of around 20% in the electricity bill for households that have a regulated rate.
“We Spaniards have not lived beyond our energy possibilities”
“Our solidarity is much more useful if we can make use of our infrastructures to be able to provide gas to the rest of Europe, but not at the expense of some domestic and industrial consumers who have been paying a very high bill for a long time,” he pointed out. Spain has spent years investing huge sums of money —which companies and households have paid via higher charges— to equip itself with a powerful network of regasification plants that, in a situation like the current one, shines with its own light. “Unlike other countries, we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means from an energy point of view,” she stressed.
For this reason, the minister has urged the community partners to “discuss in an open, transparent and respectful way” on the best way to support each other in this regard. And she has highlighted the “fundamental” role that Spain can play as a “gateway” for more than 30% of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe, with infrastructures prepared to support “its neighbors”. “Spain has done its homework in this area, paying more than many European partners, (…) and resists the imposition of obligations above what corresponds to us and what is requested of other community partners in terms of effort.” In this way, Ribera has remarked that Spain will go to the European Energy Council next Tuesday to “defend the interests of all Spaniards with a supportive, effective, efficient and coordinated proposal”.
Large regasification capacity
In this sense, he recalled that Spain has “a great regasification capacity and also a great storage and re-export capacity through small methane tankers”, and the Government believes that Spanish consumers, “beyond the effort they can make, do not they must suffer the consequences of something they have been paying for for many years”, their own security to provisioning.
Spanish regasification capacity represents more than 30% of the total in Europe and, therefore, Spain is “the main port of entry for liquefied natural gas into Europe”, which “has been reflected in domestic and industrial consumer bills of gas that, therefore, do not deserve to give restrictions”. “Yes, I think we have to bet on savings and efficiency; I do believe that it is necessary to find out how some consumptions can be replaced by others, to the extent that they can be replaced. But we do not consider the hypothesis of introducing rationing or restrictions to any type of consumer”, Ribera has stated.
“Widespread conviction” that Russia will turn off the tap
The head of Ecological Transition has highlighted that there is a “widespread conviction that, sooner or later, Russia is going to stop supplying Europe”. And she has pointed out that the EU, although today it has not adopted sanctions against the Russian country for the invasion of Ukraine, it does want to do without it as the main supplier of gas, coal, oil and enriched uranium. After pointing out that Russia is currently a fundamental country for energy supplies in Europe, she recalled that it is not “so important for Spain” because its volume of gas imports “is very limited and practically”.
Regarding Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he will reopen the gas pipeline with Germany, the minister believes that “what he has done is rehearse energy blackmail with the Europeans”: “More than a year ago they began to reduce stored gas or flows of gas that came from Russia to Europe through the different active gas pipelines”.
Regarding the Nord Stream 1, the main gas pipeline that connects Russia with Germany, he stressed that, “for months, the flow has been reduced by more than 84%, that is, it is working around 15%”. “Now there has been a scheduled maintenance shutdown. There were doubts about whether that scheduled ten-day shutdown, which ends today, would be permanent or if, in the event that it works again, it will continue to send gas by around 15% or if it will increase it”, he clarified. After indicating that they do not have the answer, he considers “very likely that it will continue playing with the volumes of gas that it exports to Europe.”
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