EU leaders to discuss soaring energy prices

File photo. EU heads of state and government in Brussels on 24 May 2021. This was the first face-to-face EU summit since December 2020. [Council Newsroom]

Leaders of European Union countries will discuss surging energy prices when they meet next month, as governments scramble to cushion households from the soaring cost of gas and power.

Benchmark European gas prices have rocketed by more than 300% this year due to factors including low storage levels, outages and high demand as economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, dragging up wholesale electricity costs.

Leaders from the EU’s 27 member countries will discuss the surging prices when they next meet on 21-22 October, according to a draft agenda for the summit, seen by Reuters.

EU countries are responsible for their national energy policies, and some governments have already intervened. France has offered a one-off payment to poorer households, while Greece is planning subsidies to help households shoulder higher bills.

Italy’s Draghi announces €3 billion package to keep energy prices down

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday (23 September) announced measures worth three billion euros to keep gas and electricity bills down this winter as power prices soar across Europe.

Some have called for a more coordinated EU response – with Spain seeking reforms to the bloc’s electricity market and warning that high energy bills could damage public support for policies to fight climate change.

“There is an urgent need to discuss the impact of higher prices on low income communities at the highest possible level,” one EU diplomat said on Tuesday, adding the bloc must ensure its climate change targets do not push prices up more.

Spain wants EU 'menu' of measures to combat power price surges

Spain urged the European Commission on Monday (20 September) to devise guidance to help member states react consistently to power price spikes without testing the rules of the bloc, and suggested moves to limit carbon market speculators and build up gas reserves.

 

Luxembourg on Tuesday called on the European Commission to protect the EU’s internal energy market and safeguard it against potential manipulation by companies.

“It is up to the Commission to ensure the integrity of the European internal market and to ensure that no company takes advantage of its dominant position to exert influence on prices,” Luxembourg energy minister Claude Turmes said in a letter to the EU’s energy and antitrust chiefs.

The letter, seen by Reuters, asked the Commission to take immediate steps to identify potential abuses.

“If they were proven, the Commission should put an end to them by all the means at its disposal,” it said.

The letter did not name specific suppliers. A group of European Parliament lawmakers this month asked Brussels to investigate Gazprom’s role in soaring European gas prices, saying the Russian supplier’s behaviour had made them suspect market manipulation.

US blame Russia for manipulating Europe gas prices, Moscow retorts the EU messed it up

A US official warned against “manipulation” of gas prices in Europe, as a group of European MEPs accused Russia of being behind price rises. In return, Russia said the disbalance was a result of mistaken EU policy making.

Brussels is drawing up a “toolbox” of measures that national governments can use to respond to price hikes – such as by tweaking the value-added tax (VAT) on energy.

The Commission has said the price spike should encourage countries to shift away from fossil fuels faster, and ensure more citizens have access to affordable renewable energy.

EU prepares 'toolbox' of measures to tackle energy price spike

The European Union executive will produce a “toolbox” of measures EU countries can take to tackle energy price spikes without breaching the bloc’s energy market rules, it said on Wednesday, as consumers faced a sharp rise in bills with winter …

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