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EU leaders to discuss strategic gas reserve at October summit: von der Leyen

Highlights

High prices due to lack of supply response

Highlights EU's dependence on gas imports

Welcomes Norway moves to raise output

EU leaders are to discuss the option of setting up a strategic EU gas reserve against the background of high gas prices, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Oct. 5.

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Speaking at a press conference in Tallinn, Estonia, von der Leyen said the current high gas prices were a result of a lack of supply response to higher demand, and highlighted the EU's gas import dependence.

EU leaders are due to meet for a European Council summit Oct. 21-22, with high energy prices set to feature at the top of the agenda.

"In the short term, we will discuss in the European Council how to deal with storage, a strategic reserve," she said.

There is currently no coordinated EU policy on strategic gas reserves, with each member state having its own mechanisms for the building of gas stocks.

Some -- including Italy and France -- have some storage regulation including on maintaining minimum storage levels, while others depend solely on market dynamics.

According to Gas Infrastructure Europe, the EU's gas storage sites are currently filled to just 75.7% of capacity compared with 95.2% a year ago.

Supply response

Von der Leyen said the lack of a supply response was partly to blame for record high gas prices in Europe.

"We are very grateful that Norway is stepping up its production now, but this does not seem to be the case, for example, in Russia," she said.

Norway's state-controlled Equinor said last month it had secured rises in its production permits for the Troll and Oseberg fields, and that it expected higher production from both this winter.

Supplies of Russian gas, however, have fallen in recent months, despite Gazprom saying it was meeting all of its contractual obligations.

Von der Leyen said the current situation reflected the EU's dependence on gas imports.

"In gas, we are heavily dependent of imports. 90% of gas is being imported...so we are very much dependent on the suppliers," she said.

"And what is the reason for the rise in gas prices? Of course globally the economies are picking up, so the demand is rising, but the supply is not rising accordingly."

She said that this reinforced the need to invest in renewables. "For the mid- and long-term, it's very clear we have to invest in the European Green Deal, in renewables," she said.

"This is our production, we are independent, they are stable in the price and good for the future."