Rhein on Energy and Climate

After having been cut off twice in the last three years from Russian gas supplies, the EU is getting finally serious with improving its short-term gas supply security. Member states have started discussing to put in place a system of short-term storage, similar to the emergency oil storage installed after the first oil crisis in 1973.

The easiest solution is to legally oblige gas companies to maintain a permanent gas reserve, sufficient for 20 days of their normal sales. Member states would be responsible for monitoring the implementation.

Gas consumers would have to pay for the modest extra charges, a sort of insurance premium for safe supply. This point is controversial between member states, but there is no reason for the EU to get involved financially. Buying and selling gas is just an energy business like every other. So is the extension of the intra-European network of gas pipelines, which would further enhance the security of supply of those member states, which are particularly dependent on Russian gas.

It is urgent to get a “gas storage directive” adopted by the outgoing parliament so that European gas consumers can look forward to winter without supply cuts. The issue does not warrant lengthy debates on details. The EU is there to decide the essentials. That is what its citizens expect from it.

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  1. Gas supply
    You’ve just walked over the threshold of your new home. What should you know? What do you HAVE to know about the gas supply?

    Do you and all your household members know how to shut off the gas supply? You never know when an emergency might occur.

    Many city houses have a mains gas supply sourced from gas pipes running under the street. Individual pipes lead to the houses and there’ll be a meter box on the outside wall that measures the amount of gas used. Usually at this point, too, there is a valve for turning off the supply to the house. Make sure you find this valve early on to make sure you can turn the gas off if and when necessary. Gas can be lethal — either through breathing it in or in starting an explosive fire.

    Gas appliances need servicing. To be safe, have them serviced annually by a registered gasfitter.

    Bottled gas
    Some household systems are run from bottled gas. Make sure you know how to turn the bottles on and off (usually a valve on the top of the bottle). The bottle must be kept upright. There’ll also be a threaded connection where a pipe feeds the gas from the bottle to the appliance or system. A bulbous metal regulator will be on the pipe near the connection.

    Refilling a gas bottle
    Always turn the bottle valve to the OFF position before attempting to disconnect the bottle from the pipe. The thread on the pipe is usually a left-hand thread, so turn it clockwise to undo it and anticlockwise to put it on again. Connect it tightly to make sure the valve inside will open.

    Gas hot water
    Some gas hot water supplies originate from a califont, which heats a storage tank of water, but increasingly gas hot water supplies are in-line or continuous flow. In other words, the water is heated by a gas flame (in a special box) as it passes through the pipe to the tap. In this system, hot water is instant and heated only when needed.

    Look for a temperature regulator panel, usually on the wall inside the house somewhere near where the gas heater (on the outside wall) is located. This will allow you to turn the system on or off and set a desired temperature. There’ll also probably be an automatic cut-off switch at this point.

    If you find you have no heat in the hot water tap, it could be that a power cut has flipped the automatic switch. Reset the ON/OFF switch and the temperature on the panel (usually inside the house) — and let’s hope another power cut doesn’t occur while you’re lathered up in the shower.

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