ZThe Czech Minister of Industry and current President of the Council, Jozef Síkela, scheduled two hours for the debate on the high energy prices at the special meeting of energy ministers on Friday morning. At twelve o'clock there should be clarity as to whether the ministers will support the European Commission's proposal to cap the "extraordinary profits" from wind, solar and nuclear power. It would not be a surprise if the discussion lasted longer. There are too many unanswered questions about this. Is skimming off special profits enough for the states that have spoken out in favor of completely decoupling the price of electricity from the price of gas? These include Italy, Spain, France, Sweden and the Czech Republic. And what does that mean for the price cap already introduced by Spain and Portugal?
Resistance also comes from other quarters. The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki In an interview with the British newspaper "Financial Times", he spoke out in favor of relieving consumers in other ways than introducing extremely complicated excess profit taxes or skimming off special profits. Instead, he wants to suspend emissions trading for one to two years or at least drastically reduce the price of CO2 emission rights. This can be done quickly and immediately lowers the price of electricity for consumers. In the past few weeks in Brussels, Poland has already brought up a EUR 30 reduction in the issue price. At the moment it is 70 euros. In August it was 30 euros more.
However, at a debate between energy experts from the member states on the energy crisis on Wednesday, Poland's initiative met with little support. In addition to Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have clearly spoken out against it, say EU diplomats. The costs of emissions trading are of course reflected in the electricity price down because the energy companies have to pay for their CO2 emissions, but they are not responsible for the price hikes of the past few months, according to the critics. In addition, a reduction in prices for consumers means that demand for electricity is more likely to be boosted. But that's exactly what you want to avoid, so that the gap between supply and demand doesn't widen, say diplomats. The basic problem is that there is not enough gas.
EU Commission wants to skim off profits
the EU Commission Therefore, in close coordination with the federal government, wants to skim off the "unexpectedly high profits" that producers of cheap green and nuclear power, but also producers of coal-fired power, have because of the high electricity prices. They benefit from the fact that the gas-fired power plants are currently running almost continuously and the high price of gas "sets" the price of electricity.
According to an internal draft available to FAZ.NET, the EU Commission wants to limit the income for everyone except the gas-fired power plants to 200 euros per megawatt hour. The difference between these 200 euros and the market price, which is currently up to 450 euros depending on the time of day and the electricity mix, could then be redistributed by the states to needy consumers and companies. At the same time, the price signals would continue to have an effect and dampen consumption.
Berlin and Brussels are trying to sell this as the ideal compromise. In fact, the electricity price is thus at least indirectly decoupled from the gas price. In addition, it is ultimately nothing more than a kind of "excess profit tax", which should not be called that because it is a problem for a partner within the German government, says an EU diplomat. The EU Commission therefore also wants to allow countries that have introduced excess profit taxes, such as Italy, France or Greece, to stick to them.
Even there, however, there is resistance. This also has to do with the fact that skimming off the profits is perceived as an idea that was specially designed for Germany. Spain and Portugal are strictly opposed to this, because the capping of the gas price for electricity producers practiced by them would not be reconcilable, say diplomats.
"Nothing in the bag yet"
"Despite all the optimism, nothing is certain yet," it says. This also applies to the other proposals that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented on Wednesday. A diplomat says it is completely unclear how the "solidarity levy" for oil and gas companies will be implemented. Who should the levy hit, what about international corporations, who should levy the levy, how should it be redistributed? All of these are questions that need to be clarified. The proposal to cut power consumption, especially at peak times, is theoretically supported by everyone, it is said elsewhere. Last but not least, numerous Eastern European countries rejected obligatory savings targets, such as those envisaged by the Commission.
The proposal for a price cap on Russian pipeline gas was also met with skepticism during the first discussion on Wednesday. Hungary and Germany had raised concerns, it said afterwards. Italy and Poland in turn would have called for a price cap on all gas imports. Only the liquidity support for energy suppliers met with broad support. “There were more states that spoke out against it than for it. I don't think that tomorrow the ministers will give the Commission the mandate to push this forward directly," says a diplomat.
In view of this, several diplomats warn against expecting too much from the special meeting of ministers. There will almost certainly be no decisions. It is more about testing where the limits for the member states are. Then the Commission would first have to present concrete proposals. Von der Leyen has announced this for next Tuesday.