Portugal: Possible joint purchase of natural gas ‘positive’

Portugal said on Tuesday the recommendation made by the European Commission for European Union (EU) member states to consider a voluntary joint purchase of gas reserves at a time of energy crisis was ‘positive’, and the measure deserved to be studied.

Speaking on behalf of Portugal at the public session of the Extraordinary Energy Council, held on Tuesday in Luxembourg with the European ministers in charge, Pedro Lourtie pointed out that the focus on energy storage solutions is essential to increase the security and flexibility of the energy system of the EU in the medium and long term.

“The European Council last week called for an evaluation of the functioning of the marginalist market for the formation of the electricity price and, in this context, we look forward to the ACER [Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators] study,” he added after it was agreed that European regulators would evaluate the design of the electricity and gas markets.

EU energy ministers met on Tuesday in an extraordinary meeting to coordinate national mitigation and support measures at a time of rising electricity and gas prices, caused by increases in the latter market, higher demand and falling temperatures, which threaten to exacerbate energy poverty and cause difficulties in paying heating bills this autumn and winter.

For this reason, in mid-October, the European Commission presented a toolbox to guide EU countries in adopting measures at the national level, proposing that member states move forward with vouchers, temporary reductions or moratoria to alleviate electricity bills for the most fragile consumers and suggesting an investigation into possible anti-competitive behaviour.

The EU executive also recommended countries assess potential benefits of a voluntary joint purchase of gas reserves, an initiative similar to the one carried out to purchase anti-Covid-19 vaccines.

At the time, Brussels indicated that it would explore the possible benefits of the joint purchase of gas reserves by regulated entities or national authorities to allow pooling of forces and creation of strategic reserves.

Next December, the EU executive will present a package of initiatives on the energy sector, admitting to the intervention regarding the acquisition and storage of gas to strengthen EU reserves.

Portugal is even the EU country, among the 18 that have gas storage, with the lowest reserves, which are around half, according to the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG).

In a document with supply perspectives for this winter, dated the beginning of October, ENTSOG indicates that gas storage levels in Portugal are at 49.82%, the lowest percentage in the EU.

In his public speech on Tuesday, Pedro Lourtie also said that Portugal supports most of the measures presented recently by the Commission in the toolbox and considers that they should be implemented immediately to minimise the negative impact on consumers and the economy.

He also pointed out that the country already had many measures in its legal framework, and others have recently been adopted in response to the price increase recorded, hoping that in 2022 it will mitigate the effects of the significant rise in wholesale electricity prices.