The European Commission has had "relatively little" feedback on the volume of gas supply contracted between buyers and sellers following tenders on the joint purchasing platform AggregateEU, a senior EC official said Oct. 4.
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There have been two completed tenders so far on the platform, with a total of 22.9 Bcm of demand matched with supply. A third tender is currently ongoing.
After demand is matched with supply, counterparties negotiate potential gas supply contracts outside of the platform and are not obliged to share the results of their discussions.
"The reality is we've had relatively little feedback so far because companies are not required to give that to us in terms of the deals," Matthew Baldwin, deputy director-general at the EC's energy directorate, said.
Speaking during a webinar organized by industry body Eurogas, Baldwin said the EC had invited companies to give feedback on any contracts that were agreed, though "not in an intrusive way".
"We're not expecting to get any outcomes on price though we'd be delighted to hear it if companies would like to let us know that," he said.
Baldwin also said it was unclear how much gas contracted through the platform had ended up in European storage facilities this summer.
The platform was established to respond to the European energy crisis and high gas prices by using the EU's collective strength to aggregate demand.
Baldwin said a fourth tender on AggregateEU would be held before the end of 2023 and that the EC was mulling offering a longer delivery period for gas supply in the next round.
If implemented, gas offers would remain on the table until early 2029, he said.
"The platform should continue to play an important role in the EU's diversification efforts," he said.
Baldwin also praised the EU's mandatory storage filling requirement, saying it had helped with security of supply.
Under the new EU rules, member states were required to fill storage sites to 80% of capacity by Nov. 1, 2022, and to 90% of capacity by Nov. 1, 2023.
The EU reached this year's 90% gas storage target on Aug. 16, some 11 weeks ahead of the EU-mandated Nov. 1 deadline.
Asked whether the EC planned to continue the storage filling target obligations into the longer term, Baldwin said the EC would have to consider its options "very carefully."
"It has been successful. It is an additional area where we have consciously and with no apology stepped into the market," he said, adding that going further on storage was a major part of the EU's supply security last winter.
"We were lucky in some respects that the weather was helpful and we didn't get to test our security of supply to the limit precisely because we had that strong storage position.," he said.
With stocks already currently more than 95% full, Baldwin said the EU was in a much better position than many had predicted a year ago.
Baldwin said the REPowerEU plan and the associated emergency regulations had been instrumental in replacing Russian gas flows and finding new sources of reliable supply.
The regulations, which as well as storage obligations also included demand reductions and member state solidarity, had placed the EU on a "good trajectory" for the coming winter.
"We're still surfing on the back of those regulations," he said.
The EU reduced its gas consumption by 17% between August 2022 and July 2023, which had helped reduce price volatility and reach the EU's storage targets.
Baldwin added, however, that there was "quite a bit" of demand destruction in that time.
"Industry went through a hellish time last year in terms of the price of gas and the availability of gas. We did lose quite a lot of industrial production," he said.
Baldwin also said that market risks remained and that there was "absolutely no room for complacency about our situation whether it's for this winter or the next ones".
He said there could be further cuts from Russia that could see the loss of the remaining 20 Bcm/year of Russian pipeline gas, while a cold winter could lead to an additional 30 Bcm of EU gas demand.
"Both of these things could affect EU security of supply and renew market tensions, driving prices back up again," he said.
Gas prices reached record levels last summer on lower Russian flows and the need to fill storage sites.
Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed the benchmark Dutch TTF month-ahead price at an all-time high of Eur319.98/MWh on Aug. 26, 2022.
Prices have come down since thanks to healthy storage levels and demand curtailments but remain relatively high, with Platts assessing the TTF month-ahead price on Oct. 3 at Eur37.18/MWh.
On Russian gas, Baldwin said there were no plans to introduce EU-level sanctions against Russian gas or LNG.
He said sanctions were subject to unanimity in the EU. "We would anticipate that being quite difficult to achieve, not least because several member states still rely to quite a considerable degree on Russian pipeline gas," he said.
"For these reasons, we haven't come forward with sanctions proposals," he said.
Baldwin said there were also still other issues to contend with. "Energy intensive industries are still experiencing a considerable degree of vulnerability and persisting difficulties with energy supplies," he said.
"Energy markets globally remain very fragile and vulnerable to even relatively small demand-supply shocks."