By Angeliki Koutantou
ATHENS (Reuters) -Greece opposes an EU plan for countries to cut their gas use by 15% by March, its government said on Thursday, after the country unveiled a contingency plan which sees rotating power outages as a last resort if Russian gas supplies are disrupted.
Greece relies on Russia for 40% of its gas, two thirds of which is used for power generation, and has not seen any disruption of supplies so far. It has ramped up imports of liquefied gas (LNG) in the first six months of the year, replacing a big chunk of the Russian fuel.
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a voluntary target for all EU countries to cut gas use by 15% from August to March, compared with their average consumption in the same period during 2016-2021. This target could become mandatory in an emergency situation.
"The Greek government does not agree in principle with the EU proposal for a 15% reduction in gas usage," government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said.
"We have submitted a series of proposals regarding gas prices .... and gas supply and we will insist on supporting them as a European solution," he said.
Greece has proposed an EU cap mechanism on wholesale gas prices and joint gas purchases to help cut soaring energy costs.
Spain has also said that it could not support the EU proposal without consultations.
"Right now, Greece is prepared, it has the necessary infrastructure which can secure supplies even at the most adverse scenario of natural gas being cut off," Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas was quoted as telling a Greek radio station.
"So we do not agree with an across-the-board mandatory 15% cut in (gas) consumption."
Greece has an LNG facility near Athens and has recently leased a floating unit for the next 12 months to boost its storage capacity.
Under a draft contingency plan which was unveiled on Thursday, the country plans to implement rotating power outages as a last resort if Russia cuts gas flows.
These emergency measures will be activated only if other actions, including ramping up coal-fired power capacity, asking consumers to reduce power consumption at peak hours and stopping power exports, prove insufficient, its energy regulator said.
Under European Union guidelines, ahead of the winter, Greece would also need to store enough gas in other states to cover 15% - 900 million cubic metres - of its annual use, as it has no gas storage facilities.
Athens has been in talks with Italy on whether it can store gas there ahead of the winter and in talks with the European Commission on whether it can store a smaller quantity in Italy, according to a government source.
(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Bernadette Baum, Kirsten Donovan)