The EU on Tuesday launched its Aggregate EU scheme, allowing European companies to place orders to jointly buy gas. Organisers hope the scheme will improve supply throughout the bloc.

The scheme, part of the EU Energy Platform, aims to ensure energy security ahead of European winter toward the end of the year, in an effort to avoid a repeat of last year’s record-high prices and energy shortages.

Companies will have until 2 May to register how much gas they would like to purchase through the scheme. The system excludes Russian gas following its invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against it.

The platform will collect offers from global suppliers to match each companies’ demand. Companies and their matched suppliers will then negotiate contracts without EU involvement. Both EU and non-EU companies can participate as suppliers, but cannot act as both when negotiating each tender.

The EU established the platform in April last year to prevent EU member states from outbidding each other for gas. Politicians also hope to aid countries in efforts to diversify further from Russian gas.

Countries, including Spain, have suggested that joint buying schemes could secure better terms and conditions in global gas markets, Reuters reports.A representative for the European Commission said: “Company cooperation is especially beneficial for smaller companies and companies from landlocked countries with less global outreach or negotiating power.”

The scheme will cover approximately 13.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) out of a total EU gas demand of approximately 360 bcm.

James Watson, head of industry group Eurogas, said via Reuters that the scheme was a welcome attempt to prepare for industry’s and consumers’ energy needs.

The EU will require members to fill gas storage to 90% by November this year. However, combined gas storage in the EU already stands at over 50%, an unusually high level attributed largely to diminished energy usage last winter amid soaring prices.

The buying process will repeat every two months for the next 12 months, a Commission spokesperson said.