The European Union called Thursday on member nations to ramp up natural gas storage and build more pipelines to cope with any future cutoff in energy supplies from Russia, Kyiv Post reported, referring to Associated Press.

In January, thousands of homes went without heating and some power plants shut down when gas stopped flowing through pipelines from Russia due to a payment dispute with its neighbor Ukraine.

EU officials complained that Europeans were held hostage by the row and are seeking new routes and sources for energy _ something that will take years to realize.

The EU executive says the 27-nation bloc could double gas storage by 2015. It said Romania _ one of the bloc's poorest states _ and Slovenia urgently need to build more storage because they depend so heavily on imports.

It is also calling for better energy connections between countries to help pump gas to where it is needed if supplies fall short.

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the EU was ready to help fund some of this new infrastructure. He added, however, that the decisions need to be made by governments and that private companies also had to bear some of the costs.

The EU said ¤1 trillion ($1.4 trillion) needs to be spent by 2030 to upgrade Europe's power generation and grid and ¤150 billion ($211 billion) on gas networks, including pipelines from suppliers.

Under a proposed draft law, the European Commission called on EU nations to share information on their gas demand and supply.

It does not require them to pool supplies in times of trouble. Piebalgs said this would be an overreaction to the gas crisis and any sharing should be voluntary.

The EU Commission also said Europeans can play a part by using less natural gas for heating or cooking.

EU officials hold talks Friday with the Ukrainian and Russian state-owned gas producers who are asking for a multibillion dollar loan to help Ukraine pay its energy bills to Russia's Gazprom. The EU says any loan must be linked to promises not to interrupt Europe's supply again.

One quarter of the EU's energy comes from natural gas, 58 percent of it imported. Russia provides two-fifths of these gas imports, most of that passing through Ukraine. The EU's eight eastern European members depend on Russia for more than three quarters of their gas.

Other major gas suppliers are Norway, Libya and Algeria.

The EU expects gas imports to surge by 2020 as European wells run dry and power companies shift from burning coal to less polluting gas to try and curb greenhouse gas emissions.


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