(Bloomberg) -- Germany is planning to force energy firms to keep enough gas in storage to ensure security of supply in the winter as part of a package to be considered by parliament, according to people familiar with the matter.
The plan -- to be presented in spring -- would put the onus on companies including energy giants Uniper SE, RWE AG and Gazprom PJSC to safeguard stockpiles in Europe’s top natural gas consumer, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Germany’s Economy Ministry has commissioned consultants at the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne to hash out details of the proposal, the people said.
Europe is looking for ways to avoid another energy crisis next winter after utilities failed to stash enough gas away before the start of the heating season. Prices surged to record last year as Russia limited supplies and demand rebounded at a time when inventories were at their lowest level in more than a decade. All of that forced energy-intensive industries from fertilizer producers to metals smelters to curb output or shutdown altogether.
Germany’s Economy Ministry said it’s is closely monitoring gas reserves and that it’s also considering “precautionary mechanisms, including regulatory actions” to ensure gas supplies. The Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne, or EWI, said it’s working on a study on behalf of the ministry, but declined to provide information on the content or timing.
Ensuring adequate gas supplies ahead of next winter will be key for European countries as tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine escalate. Russia is Europe’s top suppliers, with about a third of the gas flowing through pipeline crossing Ukraine. On Friday, the U.S. said intelligence indicated Russia may attack its neighbor before the Beijing Olympics end in a week. Moscow has repeatedly denied it plans to invade.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck had already said his country was considering a plan to secure gas inventories, but a government-controlled national reserve has now been ruled out, according to the people. The proposal currently being developed could require energy companies to have a certain amount of gas in storage by a particular date, force traders to top up storage facilities if volumes fall below a certain level, or another mechanism that puts energy firms in charge, the people said.
The objective is have the proposal approved before summer, they said.
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