11th Dec 2023

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.

EU plans 'emergency intervention' on electricity price

The EU is working on an "emergency intervention" plan to stem surging energy prices, which may require "structural reform of the electricity market" Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

Russia loses seat on board of chemical weapons watchdog

Russia lost its seat on the board of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for the first time in the organisation's history — while Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania were elected to the executive council.


How Moldova is trying to control tuberculosis

Moldova, Europe's poorest country, is working hard to combat tuberculosis. The country wants to be tuberculosis-free by 2030, at the same time as joining the EU. That's quite a challenge.

Latest News

  1. How Moldova is trying to control tuberculosis
  2. Many problems to solve in Dubai — honesty about them is good
  3. Sudanese fleeing violence find no haven in Egypt or EU
  4. How should EU reform the humanitarian aid system?
  5. EU suggests visa-bans on Israeli settlers, following US example
  6. EU ministers prepare for all-night fiscal debate
  7. Spain's Nadia Calviño backed to be EIB's first female chief
  8. Is there hope for the EU and eurozone?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us