WWhile the federal government is still struggling to find a solution to the high gas prices, it can at least push ahead with the work on the electricity price cap that it has already announced. The member states of the EU are about to agree on the electricity price cap of 180 euros proposed by the European Commission just two weeks ago for producers of cheap electricity from wind, solar or nuclear power. According to the plans of the Czech EU Council Presidency, the EU energy ministers should already decide on the cap this Friday. This also applies to the solidarity levy for mineral oil and gas companies and the electricity saving requirements, which are also part of the Commission’s package.
In order to enable a quick agreement, the EU Council Presidency has gradually softened the text over the past few days to give the EU states more flexibility. The federal government has managed to stagger the price cap depending on the type of energy source. It could therefore be stricter, i.e. lower, for wind and solar power than for other energy sources. The uniform solution for the internal electricity market sought by the European Commission is thus effectively off the table.
Aid can be paid in advance
The EU Commission had proposed capping the income from all electricity producers with comparatively low production costs – ultimately including everyone except gas and hard coal – at EUR 180 per megawatt hour and using the money to help households and companies. So it’s not about a price cap in the actual sense, but rather a revenue cap for the electricity producers concerned.
At the moment, some of these are making enormous profits, since the price is very high due to the indirect coupling of electricity and gas prices. Germany, for example, could have skimmed off around 200 euros based on the Commission’s proposal, the difference between the 180 euros and a market price of 380 euros most recently.
The most recent compromise text, which is available to the FAZ, sticks to the 180 euros. However, it allows EU member states to deviate both upwards and downwards. In this way, they can set the price cap higher if the investment and operating costs of individual systems would not otherwise pay off. On the other hand, depending on the technology, you can put lower, individual lids. According to an internal “wire report” by the German EU ambassador to the federal government, which is also available to the FAZ, Germany was not least pushing for this.
The federal government also agrees that the EU states should be allowed to pay out the aid to households and companies in advance and only skim off the profits of the electricity producers later. Irrespective of this, the member states are free to decide whether they skim off the profits above the revenue cap in full or leave 10 percent of them to them. In contrast to the Commission proposal, you can also set a national revenue limit for electricity from hard coal, which is the most expensive energy source in “normal” times.
The Commission’s proposal to skim off 33 percent of the oil and gas companies’ excess profits as a solidarity levy, regardless of the electricity market, will be made more flexible. States can levy the solidarity levy only in 2022 or 2023, or in both years. They can go beyond the proposed 33 percent, but they can also “count” comparable national schemes if they generate the same income. The basis should no longer be the profit of the past three years, but of the past four years.
Start up less expensive gas power plants
The goal of reducing power consumption by 5 percent at peak times remains in place. Brussels wants to achieve that less expensive gas-fired power plants are ramped up. They are often only needed at peak times when there is not enough electricity from other sources. However, the states should be able to define much more flexibly what peak consumption times are. Above all, they no longer have to reduce the electricity in 10 percent of the monthly hours, but can go down to 3 percent.
The Czech Council Presidency could slightly revise the text once the EU ambassadors have dealt with it on Wednesday, diplomats said. However, the basic features would be retained.