EU energy ministers meet to discuss power price surge

File photo. High-tension electricity power lines in Carros, southern France, 9 October 2019. [EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER]

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.

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.

“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.

Energy ministers to hold first exchange on EU’s 2030 climate laws

In their first meeting since the European Commission tabled an overhaul of climate legislation in July, EU energy ministers are due to discuss two major files that will drive Europe’s push towards clean energy, according to a room document seen by EURACTIV.

“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.”

IEA says Russia could do more to supply Europe with gas

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday (21 September) Russia could do more to help alleviate gas supply issues in Europe which have driven prices up to record highs over the past month.

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