Strasbourg, France, Oct 5, 2022 (AFP)
The EU is "ready to discuss" a price cap on gas within the bloc to bring down soaring energy costs, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.
Her comment to the European Parliament signalled a shift in tone after EU powerhouse Germany had expressed worries a broad price cap might divert supplies away from Europe.
It comes as 15 EU countries -- more than half the bloc -- are pushing for the EU to impose a price ceiling on how much it would pay for gas piped or shipped in, as the northern hemisphere winter sets in.
Europe is facing an energy crunch as the price of electricity generation skyrockets because of a massive surge in gas prices.
Russia, which used to be Europe's main supplier, has largely turned off the taps after being hit by EU sanctions over the war in Ukraine that, while not touching gas, crimped sales of its more lucrative oil exports.
"We are ready to discuss a cap on the price of gas that is used to generate electricity," Von der Leyen told MEPs sitting in Strasbourg, France.
"This cap would also be a first step on the way to a structural reform and overall reform of our electricity market."
She added, "We also have to look at gas prices beyond the electricity market".
- Still being 'fleshed out' -
Her spokesman, Eric Mamer, explained the proposal was still being "fleshed out" and "related to the wholesale market of gas trading in Europe" and not directly on the price paid for imported gas.
He acknowledged however "links between the price of gas traded within Europe and the price of the gas that we buy from outside".
Norway, which has become Europe's main gas supplier as Russian deliveries have fallen, reiterated Wednesday its opposition to a price cap saying it would not resolve the problem of a shortage of gas.
"It would rather make the situation worse because you can expect such a solution to contribute to increased consumption and fewer deliveries," said the non-EU nation's energy minister Terje Aasland.
"No one can use more gas or energy than exists," he told AFP by email.
Brussels has been amenable to a cap on pipeline gas to hurt Russia and deprive it of cash.
But it has resisted a cap on liquified natural gas (LNG), fearing that sellers might simply divert shipments to higher-paying markets, further starving Europe of gas.
Germany, traditionally the biggest beneficiary of Russian gas, had also rebuffed the idea. But it has come under pressure from other EU members after announcing a 200-billion-euro ($199-billion) fund to protect consumers.
Von der Leyen admitted a price cap "entails drawbacks in terms of security of supply of gas".
In a letter to EU leaders for them to consider at a Prague summit on Friday, she said her "roadmap" included negotiating a "corridor" for gas supplies from trusted partners such as Norway and the United States.
She stressed also, in apparent allusion to the criticism of Germany's go-it-alone approach, that, "to avoid serious fragmentation (in the EU), we need a united and common European response" to avoid "distortions of the single market"
While gas storage ahead of winter has hit 90 percent -- exceeding targets -- there remained "a heavy burden on people and our economy".
She said her commission would present its outline for a structural reform of the EU's electricity market by the end of the year, incorporating the ambition of "a more decarbonised future".
Sumber : AFP
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