26th Sep 2022

EU now mulling options to reduce electricity demand

  • Electricity prices in countries such as Spain hit a new record this August (Photo: European Commission)
Listen to article

The EU is considering measures to cut electricity demand as part of its efforts to tackle skyrocketing energy prices, a senior European Commission official said on Thursday (1 September).

Until now, efforts have primarily focused on reducing gas consumption amid concerns that Russia could further curb gas flows to the region or cut off supplies completely.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But the European Commission is now also examining an electricity demand-reduction plan to deal with soaring energy prices.

The commission is looking into all different forms of energy price caps, but "there might be also something on demand reduction for electricity," said Mechthild Woersdoerfer, deputy director of the commission's energy department, told MEPs on the energy committee.

The EU executive is also assessing the possibilities of intervening in the electricity market and taxing companies for their windfall profits from high gas prices, she also said.

Her comments came after commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced earlier this week that the EU executive is preparing a new "emergency measures" package, acknowledging that current prices reveal "the limitations" of the EU's energy market design.

The new proposal, however, will not be finalised in time for the next extraordinary meeting of energy ministers scheduled for next week, Woersdoerfer said.

"There is not much we can prepare for that [meeting] except some factual update," she told EU lawmakers.

Natural gas prices are already almost 12 times higher than at the beginning of 2021, while the price of electricity in countries such as Spain hit a new record this August.

Under the existing market rules, gas sets the overall electricity price, but several member states, including Spain, France and Greece, have called for decoupling electricity prices from the gas market.

The Czech Republic, which holds the EU council presidency, has voiced support for an EU-wide gas price cap — a proposal backed by Italy and Belgium.

Meanwhile, others have been calling for capping gas prices — an idea that has recently gained the support of initially opposed Austria and Germany.

Hungary buys more gas

EU leaders have pledged to reduce their dependency on Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

During the summer, member states agreed to voluntarily cut gas use by 15 percent until March — a target that could still become binding in an emergency. And national authorities will have to inform the commission of the progress made to meet this target in mid-October, and every two months afterwards.

However, Hungary signed this week a new deal with Gazprom to buy extra natural gas on top of its current supplies — which seems at odds with its gas-saving commitments and general pledges.

"We would be very interested to see how the Hungarian authorities present the data [on the gas-saving target] to us on that date [15 October]," a commission spokesperson told reporters on Thursday.


How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes

A Special Tribunal on Russian war crimes in Ukraine must be convened, because no permanent or existing international judicial institution is endowed with jurisdiction over Russian high-ranking officials, writes the head of the Ukraine delegation to the Council of Europe.

EU sanctions hamstrung by threat to food security

The EU has lifted some restrictions on the trade and financing of Russian coal and chemical to avoid an energy and food security crisis in poorer countries, but the upcoming ban on oil may have an even deeper impact.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. 'Grazie Italia': Far-right wins power in Rome
  2. How the EU is failing to help the hippo
  3. Germany sued over air pollution levels
  4. Meloni mood and energy in focus This WEEK
  5. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  6. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  7. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  8. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us