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Europe's energy infrastructure is proving incapable of dealing with a changing energy mix. But the EU has been making slow progress in improving the situation.
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A cold spell across Europe this winter pushed to the limits Russia's capacity to meet soaring market demand for gas and Ukraine's capacity to deliver it westward. At the beginning of February, Russia said Ukraine was taking out more Russian gas from EU-bound pipelines than allowed under their trans-shipment contract, while Ukraine said Gazprom, Russia's gas monopolist, was delivering less than the contractual amount of gas.
OMV, Austria's gas company, confirmed that Russian gas shipments to its hub outside Vienna were down by 30% and that it was tapping into strategic storage to make up the shortfall. Austria covers almost half its gas needs with Russian gas. Other countries, notably Germany and Italy, were also affected by the delivery shortages. Both Germany and Italy have activated contingency plans to reduce gas deliveries to industrial customers. Storage facilities are full, however, because of a winter that until this month was unusually mild.
Russia and Ukraine are in the midst of difficult talks on gas prices. Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, said last Saturday (11 February) that the situation had not become critical because the EU had learnt from the gas spat of 2009 and increased its storage, and because Russia and Ukraine were not working against each other.
Bilateral contracts between six member states and Russia violate EU law.
Text drawn up by Lithuania makes more generous allowance for the use of first-generation biofuel in meeting EU targets for renewable energy.
National governments will have to give some details of energy agreements to the European Commission.
Wide range of approaches across the EU.
Europe has nothing to lose and everything to gain from revolutionising its energy markets