European Union energy ministers on Friday tasked Brussels with drafting proposals within days to cap revenues for non-gas power producers and help power companies stay afloat.
But as they sought to shield citizens from soaring energy prices that have pushed inflation to record highs across the continent, ministers have backed down from more controversial proposals to cap gas prices Russian.
At an emergency meeting in Brussels, ministers instead asked the European Commission to propose wider gas price caps, even as the EU executive itself quickly poured cold water on the feasibility of such an idea.
EU countries also backed the executive’s proposal to offer emergency funds to power companies facing increasing guarantee demands and tasked the Commission with designing such measures.
“Everyone is in a rush to find a solution,” Swedish Energy Minister Khashayar Farmanbar said as ministers worried about the impact of sky-high energy prices on households and businesses.
The EU bargain plan, which has yet to be fleshed out, would see governments skim excess revenue from wind, nuclear and coal-fired power stations which can currently sell their electricity at record prices determined by the cost of gas , and use the money to curb consumer bills.
Fossil fuel companies would also have to pay a “solidarity contribution”, according to a summary of the meeting.
“It makes sense to take some of that excess profit and recycle it back into households,” Irish Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said of the Commission’s recommendations on Friday.
He is expected to unveil the proposals on Tuesday. Energy ministers may well hold another emergency meeting later this month to negotiate and approve final plans, Czech Industry Minister Jozef Sikela has said.
No gas price cap in Russia yet
President Vladimir Putin said this week that Moscow would cut off all supplies to Europe if a price cap was applied to Russian gas. Some countries that still receive Russian gas have said they are unwilling to risk losing that supply.
“If price restrictions were to be imposed exclusively on Russian gas, this would obviously lead to an immediate cutoff of Russian gas supply,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said.
Italian Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani said 15 EU states have come out in favor of a general price cap on all gas imports. But countries like the Netherlands have expressed doubts.
“I wouldn’t say there was broad support for a broad (gas price) cap,” Dutch State Secretary for Extractive Industries Hans Vijlbrief told reporters.
The European Commission has warned that capping liquefied natural gas prices in Europe could risk diverting it to other regions, depriving Europe of much-needed fuel.
“We must be careful not to compromise our security of supply,” said EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson.
The EU executive had not included a general cap on gas prices in a list of measures it suggested to countries ahead of Friday’s meeting.
Russian gas pipeline deliveries via the three main routes to Europe have fallen by almost 90% in the past 12 months, according to data from Refinitiv. Moscow blamed the supply cuts on technical problems caused by Western sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.
VNG, one of Germany’s largest importers of Russian natural gas, on Friday became the latest European energy company to seek state support due to supply cuts from Moscow.
As EU countries backed the idea of EU-wide “emergency liquidity instruments” to help companies facing increasing collateral requirements, the Central Bank chief European, Christine
Lagarde said Friday that governments, not central banks, should help energy companies under the stress of market volatility.
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