Portugal ‘totally against’ EU proposal on gas usage cuts

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LISBON, July 21 (Reuters) – Portugal is “totally against” an EU proposal for member states to cut gas usage until March because it would hamper electricity production through gas-fired plants when the country faces an extreme drought, Energy Secretary Joao Galamba said on Thursday.

The European Union told member states on Wednesday to cut gas usage by 15% until March as an emergency step after President Vladimir Putin warned that Russian supplies sent via the biggest pipeline to Europe could be reduced further and might even stop. 

Galamba told newspaper Expresso that the EU proposal did not address the specific hydropower needs of Spain and Portugal, which due to the current drought were forced to produce more electricity through gas-fires plants.

He said the proposal “is disproportionate and unsustainable” because it would lead to power cuts.

“Portugal is totally against the European Commission’s proposal, because it does not take into account the differences between countries. This cannot apply to Portugal,” he said.

He said that Iberia, which does not depend on gas piped from Russia, remains an energy “island” with little energy interconnection with the rest of Europe.

In April, the European Commission allowed Spain and Portugal to place a temporary cap on reference prices for natural gas and coal used by power plants.

At the end of June, before the recent heat wave, mainland Portugal already had 96% of its territory in severe or extreme drought, according to national meterology institute IPMA, and the dams saw a big drop in water storage, which harms the production of electricity.

The Commission proposal would enable Brussels to make the target mandatory in a supply emergency, if the EU declared a substantial risk of severe gas shortages. 

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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