As Europe’s benchmark gas prices hit records highs every day amid tight supply, the European Union (EU) is looking at a single-market response to the surging energy prices as it scrambles to keep its green targets amid soaring power bills.
The benchmark European gas prices continued their rally this week, surging to new record highs on Tuesday to an equivalent of $205 a barrel oil, amid a wider energy commodity rally driven by supply concerns ahead of the winter. The gas price at the Dutch TTF hub, the benchmark gas price for Europe, even topped 160 euro per MWh on Wednesday, before falling back toward 100 euro per MWh.
Some countries, such as Spain, called on the European Commission last month to provide the 27 member states with options to tackle the surging energy prices which are already hitting consumers across the bloc.
As energy prices continued to set records day after day in October, European Energy Commissioner, Kadri Simson, told the European Parliament on Wednesday:
“The Commission will present next week a toolbox of measures Members States can take in line with EU law, both short and medium term.”
“In the Commission view, Europe must respond by delivering swift coordinated action at Member States level, by leveraging the strength of its single market and by increasing its preparedness for future crisis,” Simson said during the European Parliament plenary session on energy prices.
The current energy crisis is not the result of the EU’s climate policies, which aim at a net-zero bloc by 2050, the commissioner noted.
“The current price hike has little to do with our climate policies and much to do with our dependence on imported fossil fuels and their volatile prices,” Simson said.
“The Green Deal provides the only lasting solution to Europe’s energy challenge: more renewables and improved energy efficiency,” she noted.
Five European countries, which include Spain and France, issued a joint statement on Wednesday on the troublesome high energy prices. Among other things, the statement calls for a probe into the gas market and for a reform of the wholesale electricity market. Other mentions are calls to achieve energy independence.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Another reason is that the EU countries might have misjudged the market and delayed replenishing their low natural gas reserves before the onset of winter. Even Spain, a staunch member of the EU, warned the EU Secretariat that its energy transition plans may not survive the test of sky-high electricity prices.
Two weeks ago, Fatih Birol, the Head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), claimed that the energy squeeze in Europe has nothing to do with renewables. He went on to say EU governments needed to keep their eyes on reducing global warming, even when times are volatile, referring to the sky-high gas prices in Europe. His statements were echoed today by the European Energy Commissioner saying that the current energy crisis is not the result of the EU’s climate policies. Both are not only absolutely wrong but they are deluding themselves. Europe’s energy crisis is showing them that ditching fossil fuels is a fantasy.
With natural gas storage levels at a 10-year low just ahead of the winter heating season, the EU countries are facing hard choices from their limited range of options.
If the EU wants more Russian gas supplies, then the onus is on it to facilitate the issuing of an immediate operational licence for the newly completed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to enable it to bring 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) of additional gas supplies under the Baltic Sea to Germany and the EU.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
Unreliable wind and solar have the entire EU but most notably Germany and Britain