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ENERGY

Gas bills in Germany will remain high despite price cap, warns economist

Germany is planning to bring in a cap on the price of gas for consumers. But a leading economist has warned that energy prices will still remain high. What can we expect?

A woman warms up with tea and a blanket in a German flat.
A woman warms up with tea and a blanket in a German flat. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Ole Spata

The German government last week announced a €200 billion relief package to help support private households and companies with spiralling energy prices. 

As part of the plans, a gas price cap is set to come into force in Germany, limiting the amount that people pay to use gas amid rocketing prices. 

The details on how it will work are still being thrashed out. But chairwoman of the gas price commission, Veronika Grimm, has dampened expectations for how big an effect the cap will have on energy bills. 

“We will permanently end our dependence on Russia,” the economics professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.

“So the gas price will remain significantly higher than before the Russian invasion of Ukraine due to higher liquid gas procurement prices – despite a gas price cap.” 

Grim suggested that the gas price cap could be in the form of a one-time payment to encourage people to continue using less gas. 

“It will be important to maintain a high savings incentive,” she said. “With a one-time payment, that would clearly be the case.

“You would have a much lower incentive to save if you lowered the price of gas by a certain percentage.”

On Thursday the Federal Network Agency warned that people in Germany are using too much gas.

“Gas consumption rose too sharply last week,” said Klaus Müller, head of the agency. 

He said gas usage among households and small firms was nearly 10 percent higher last week than the average consumption for the years 2018 to 2021.

“The situation could become very serious if we do not significantly reduce our gas consumption,” said Müller.

Meanwhile, economist Grimm slammed the time pressure that the gas price commission panel was under. The commission is to present proposal to policymakers on how a gas price brake could work in the coming days. 

“The decision to convene such a body could have been made a few months ago; after all, the development in gas prices was foreseeable,” Grimm said.

READ ALSO: German households see record hikes in heating costs 

Vocabulary 

One-time payment – (die) Einmalzahlung

Gas price cap/brake – (die) Gaspreisbremse

Significantly higher – deutlich höher 

Foreseeable – absehbar

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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ENERGY

German energy firm RWE takes Gazprom to court over supply halts

German's RWE said Tuesday it is taking legal action against Russia's Gazprom over halted gas supplies, the latest German company to do so since Moscow invaded Ukraine.

German energy firm RWE takes Gazprom to court over supply halts

Following the invasion, Gazprom steadily dwindled pipeline supplies to Germany in apparent retaliation for Western sanctions on Russia, sending energy prices soaring.

Last week, German energy giant Uniper said it was seeking damages from Gazprom at an international tribunal, as the Russian company’s failure to deliver gas had cost them billions of euros.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Uniper takes Gazprom to court over halted gas supplies

An RWE spokeswoman confirmed to AFP the company had also launched action, but declined to give further details.

Gazprom’s failure to deliver promised supplies has meant that German companies, long heavily reliant on Russian energy, had to buy gas on world markets at far higher prices.

Financial daily Handelsblatt reported that the costs incurred by RWE were likely lower, at around €1 billion, than those faced by Uniper.

Uniper had far larger contracts, and has put its losses from the supply halts at €11.6 billion. Gazprom has rejected Uniper’s claims.

The company, Germany’s biggest gas importer, has agreed a deal to be nationalised after Russia’s drastic reduction in supplies pushed it to the brink of bankruptcy.

READ ALSO: How Germany became ensnared by Russian gas

It reported a €40 billion net loss for the first nine months of the
year, one of the biggest losses in German corporate history.

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