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The superprofits of energy companies raise questions

  • Post category:Economy News
  • Reading time:3 mins read

Companies in the energy sector are recording substantial excess profits.

TotalEnergies, with a net profit of 5.7 billion dollars in the second quarter, thus doubled its profits. Shell does better with a fivefold profit compared to the same period in 2021: 18 billion dollars! Even better: the Italian group ENI saw its profit multiplied by… 15!

Closer to home, Engie more than doubled its net profit, which reached 5 billion euros in the first half of 2022, against 2.3 billion a year earlier.

The price calculation

Of course, the war in Ukraine, the Russian restrictions, just when demand was rising sharply following the post-Covid economic recovery drove prices up.

But, the price of the kWh of electricity is notably calculated on the cost of the most expensive electron to produce to ensure the supply. So currently, the explosion in the price of the gas that supplies the power stations is pushing up the prices of electricity, including the electricity supplied by the nuclear power stations, while the cost of production there has remained practically unchanged.

For Samuele Furfari ( teacher in geopolitics of energy ULB), The mineral industry, be it oil or copper, is a cyclical industry and there are ups and downs. You have to look at this over several decades. For years, they risk losing a lot of money and then gaining it. And to remember that those who earn a lot of money are countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Nigeria, … it is the big oil producers who earn money, because the oil reserves belong to states. This without counting, the traders who buy and resell the oil, they are the ones who earn the most.

To tax, or not?

Italy already decided last March on a 10% tax on the additional profits made. The OECD itself has recommended that the various governments seriously consider this additional taxation for cushion the impact of rising prices on consumers.

At home, last February, even before the invasion of Ukraine, the CREG, the regulator of the electricity and gas markets estimated that an exceptional additional contribution from certain nuclear power stations could be decided by the government. The National Bank is also in favor of it.

Federal Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten has submitted a project to the government: a 25% surcharge on excess profits of companies in the energy sector made between January 1 and December 31, 2022.

This 25% tax will be levied if the quarterly increase in the gross margin is greater than 10%, compared to the previous year. In addition, a threshold of 100,000 euros will also be applied.

The question divides the federal majority. The Liberals recall the commitment not to raise new taxes. Unachievablehas already announced the Minister of Finance, Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V).

The subject will certainly animate the political return.