Energy ministers from European Union countries will on Wednesday (22 September) discuss the soaring price of gas and electricity across Europe, as some governments draw up measures to protect their consumers.
Benchmark European power prices have rocketed this year, more than trebling in Spain and elsewhere, partly because gas prices have been driven up by factors such as low storage stocks, high EU carbon prices and low renewable energy output.
“I predict and expect also a crucial debate about prices in the energy sector,” said Slovenian infrastructure minister Jernej Vrtovec, who leads Wednesday’s ministerial meeting.
He said the surge electricity and gas prices was “not okay for our economy, for our citizens.”
Benchmark European gas prices have risen by more than 250% since January.
Some governments, including in Italy and Greece, have said they are considering measures such as subsidies or price caps to shield citizens from rising costs as economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spain has urged the EU to organise a more coordinated response, asking the European Commission to provide guidance on now member states can respond to the price spikes without testing EU rules.
“We urgently need a European policy menu predesigned to react immediately to dramatic price surges,” Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calviño and Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera said in a letter to the Commission.
EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said the Commission was monitoring the situation and “discussing what tools are at our disposal” to respond.
The EU ministers will on Wednesday also hold their first debate on proposals to toughen EU climate change policies, including proposals to expand the share of renewables in its energy mix to 40% by 2030.
“I am convinced that our response must be a more speedy transition to renewable energies,” Austrian climate and energy minister Leonore Gewessler said, adding this would make the EU “more resilient to price fluctuations in the long term.”