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24th Oct 2021

Spain wants energy price discussion at next EU summit

  • Spain has called for a centralised European platform to build up strategic natural gas reserves (Photo: Nord Stream 2 / Axel Schmidt)
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The Spanish government wants the current energy-price spike to be discussed at the next EU leaders' summit in October, the country's secretary of state for European affairs Juan Gónzalez-Barba said on Tuesday (21 September).

"We will request to include a European debate on the energy market in the agenda for the next European Council [meeting] due to the increase in electricity prices," Gónzalez-Barba said when arriving at the general affairs ministerial meeting.

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The debate should address the causes of the price surge and possibilities to improve the EU's regulatory framework for setting prices in the energy market, he added.

The proposal was welcomed by Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, according to Gónzalez-Barba. Malta and Portugal, among others, have also supported the initiative.

Gas and electricity prices have risen to historic levels across EU member states in the last few months - with carbon prices reaching a record high of more than €60/tonne. Meanwhile, costs for renewables have remained low and stable.

In Spain, electricity prices have increased drastically, prompting the government to intervene in the energy market and sparking an intense political blame game.

The megawatt-hour of electricity is expected to be around €175 on Wednesday, which is a 247-percent increase compared to the same day last year (€50.63 per MWh).

According to the European Commission, the energy-price increase is caused by a combination of factors, including a higher demand for gas driven by the pandemic recovery.

'Speculators with market power'

Spain's economy minister Nadia Calviño and energy minister Teresa Ribera have urged the commission to provide member states with guidance to react to energy price spikes.

"Member states should not need to improvise ad-hoc measures every time markets malfunction, and then hope that the commission will not object to these," they said in a document sent to the EU executive on Monday.

"We urgently need a European policy menu predesigned to react immediately to dramatic price surges," they added.

The Spanish proposal calls for banning certain operators from trading in the EU carbon market, especially "speculators with market power."

"If financial speculation rather than real factors drives prices up too quickly, it threatens the smooth transition to an industry powered by clean energy," they said, arguing that strategic autonomy is "incompatible" with the current dependencies on third countries in the energy sector.

They also called for a centralised European platform to build up strategic natural gas reserves.

Currently, strategic gas reserves are at 71-percent capacity - compared to the 92 percent they have been at this time of the year during the last decade, the commission said last week.

Russian supplies?

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has called on Russian operators to increase gas supplies to Europe and "ensure storage is filled to adequate levels in preparation for the coming winter heating season".

"This is also an opportunity for Russia to underscore its credentials as a reliable supplier to the European market," said the Paris-based organisation, a few days after the head of Russian energy giant Gazprom said that gas prices could increase further in the winter due to gas shortages.

Last week, a group of MEPs accused state-backed Gazprom of manipulating market prices, insinuating that Russia is pressuring Europe to get quick approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

For IEA executive director Fatih Birol, the current situation is a reminder for governments of the importance of secure energy availability, especially for the most vulnerable.

"Well-managed clean energy transitions are a solution to the issues that we are seeing in gas and electricity markets today - not the cause of them," he said in a statement.

This message was echoed last week by EU's climate chief Frans Timmermans, who said that the current situation must speed up the transition to green energy.

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