EU countries reject French bid to regulate gas and electricity prices

Gas and electricity prices are soaring across Europe
Gas and electricity prices are soaring across Europe. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP
Nine EU states, including Germany, have rejected a French-led bid to reform Europe's wholesale energy markets as prices soar.

“As the price spikes have global drivers, we should be very careful before interfering in the design of internal energy markets,” the nine said in a joint statement on Monday.

France wants to see a decoupling of electricity prices from gas prices, seeing as unfair to consumers the difference between what they are having to pay compared to the “ultra low cost” of nuclear energy.

“This will not be a remedy to mitigate the current rising energy prices linked to fossil fuels markets,” read the statement from Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands a day ahead of an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers.

Earlier this month France’s and Spain’s finance ministers urged reform of the bloc’s wholesale electricity market including the regulation of tariffs as prices shoot ever upwards.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has complained previously that the EU pricing system gives gas a disproportionate influence on the setting of wholesale electricity prices, pushing them higher in recent months as winter nears.

Le Maire appealed to the bloc to review from top to bottom the functioning of the electricity single market, judging its current rules “obsolete.”

But, without singling out Paris, the nine said they “cannot support any measure that conflicts with the internal gas and electricity market, for instance an ad hoc reform of the wholesale energy market.”

The nine said competition between different fuel sources contributes “to innovation, security of supply and are thus a key element to facilitate the transition” towards low-carbon emissions.

The European electricity market “has functioned well for 20 years with truly competitive prices… To interfere could be extremely dangerous. That could destroy all confidence in this market,” Luxembourg Energy Minister Claude Turmes said earlier this month.

Gas prices currently help to fix a price across the bloc-wide electricity market. The average price is lifted in states that largely use costly fossil fuels in order to meet rising demand.

The European Commission says it is happy with its so-called marginal wholesale pricing system which sees bloc members get the same price for the electricity they are producing while encouraging the development of renewable energy sources.

The Commission said earlier this month it wants to look into potential anti-competitive behaviour and market manipulation, without calling the status quo into question.

It made the announcement after gas prices reached record-breaking highs, noting electricity wholesale prices surged more than 200 percent between January and September, driving up retail prices as well.


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