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Hungary could save 0,5 bcm gas if heating would be turned down by 1°C

As EU Member States reached an agreement on a voluntary reduction of natural gas demand by 15 per cent this winter, in an effort to increase the security of energy supply, the Hungarian Energy and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority assessed the possibilities of residential savings and switching from gas to coal.

The reduction of gas demand was induced by the scarcity of European gas supply says the report prepared by the Hungarian regulator adding that the decrease in demand should be induced by savings, energy efficiency investments and technology change.

The report estimated that if the last heating season between 1 October 2021 and 31 March 2022, would have been 1 degree Celsius warmer on average it would have reduced domestic natural gas consumption by 445 million cubic meters, or 5.4 per cent.

Another potential option for reducing gas demand would be replacing gas power generation with coal. In the winter of 2021-22 the production of European coal power plants was already higher than in 2019-20, which was the lowest point of coal powered generation, says the report.

The report also assessed how much natural gas the Mátra Power Plan – the second largest electricity generating unit of Hungary – could replace if it operated with three blocks instead of the current two, at 70 per cent utilisation. The report found that this would generate 160 megawatts (MW) of additional power, which is enough to replace 150 million cubic metres of natural gas – 1.8 per cent of the winter consumption. However, this possibility is limited by the technical condition of the power plant and the scarce fuel supply.

According to the beyond-coal database, there are currently 114 gigawatts (GW) of coal- and lignite fired power plant capacity in the EU. The report notes that the reduction of European gas demand can be supported by ramping up coal power production in four countries; Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Poland which account for 72 per cent of the total capacity.

The report estimates that 156.7 TWh of gas could be replaced in the winter of 2022-23 with the additional production of coal power plant in these four countries, which could ensure a reduction of about 16 billion cubic meters of gas which corresponds to 5.3 per cent of the European winter gas demand.

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