The European executive announced on Monday that it was preparing “an emergency intervention” in the electricity market to limit the surge in household and business bills, while working on “structural reform” to dissociate electricity prices. electricity from gas prices, which soared with the war in Ukraine.
In a document which will be examined on September 9 by European energy ministers in Brussels, the Commission details three avenues of emergency measures, starting with a cap on wholesale prices for certain sources of electricity.
Currently, on the European market, it is the cost price of the last source of electricity mobilized to meet demand at any time, which determines the price imposed on all operators on the continent: this is often from a gas-fired power station. The other energy sources (renewable, nuclear, coal) sell the electricity they produce at a price indexed to gas prices, much higher than their operating costs: Brussels therefore proposes to cap the price paid to these power stations , to put an end to the windfall profits made by energy companies.
In return, Member States could “reap additional financial revenue” (different in each country depending on its energy mix), which they could use to support the most vulnerable consumers: direct aid, regulated tariffs, reductions in electricity bills .
This is the second recommended measure. “Less than half of the States use regulated tariffs, while direct income support remains the most widely used instrument in the EU to support households”, notes the Commission, which wants to “provide a greater degree of legal certainty to extend regulated tariffs (…) in particular with the possibility of a clear derogation (from European rules) to also cover SMEs”.
On the other hand, the European executive says it is against an indiscriminate cap on retail prices for all consumers, “an interventionist political measure which risks distorting the markets” and costing states dearly.
Finally, in line with the plan adopted in July to reduce the EU’s gas consumption, Brussels is proposing to intensify the incentive measures to reduce the demand for electricity, in particular by remunerating consumers who restrict their needs, or via calls for tender awarding compensation to manufacturers in exchange for a given reduction in their consumption.