In France as elsewhere in Europe, soaring energy prices are increasingly worrying households. In France, according to the latest barometer from the Mediator of Energy, 84% of people questioned are worried about the 40% increase in gas prices since January 1, 2021 and an electricity bill from the French which will be increased by 4% in February 2022.
Despite the gas price cap announced by the government, the annual bill including winter 2021-2022 would be 46% higher than that including winter 2020-2021 for a standard household in a gas-heated house …
Faced with this common situation in the European Union, Brussels will unveil, this Wednesday, an arsenal of temporary measures and avenues for reform from which the Twenty-Seven can draw. However, there is no question of sacrificing environmental ambitions.
States authorized to lower taxes
In this toolbox, the European Commission will encourage states to lower heavy taxes on energy and redistribute the benefits of rising prices to the most disadvantaged, according to European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton. In addition to the decisions already adopted by several governments (tax cuts, energy vouchers, aid targeted to the poorest), the Commission will also give “the possibility of also lowering VAT”, he said.
It must also present more ambitious lines of reform, examined at the European summit from October 21 to 22, even if this is still far from achieving unanimity.
Paris wants to revise the rules of the common electricity market
For its part, Paris wants to revise the rules of the common electricity market, in particular the setting of prices deemed too dependent on the prices of fossil fuels. Madrid offers “group purchases” of gas and Athens a “transitional fund” absorbing price increases. But other countries, like Germany and the Netherlands, warn against “extreme measures”, pointing to a situation that should be temporary.
“We have a well-functioning electricity market, allowing us to have very competitive prices for two decades. Interfering would be very dangerous, it could destroy all confidence in the market, ”Luxembourg Minister Claude Turmes warned. Instead, he proposes to use a modification of a “gas” directive in December to combat speculation.
Faced with divided states, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for her part mentioned a project for a “strategic reserve” of gas, as demanded in particular by Spain. Even if for the moment, European gas stocks, at 76% of capacity against 90% on average over the past decade, are “tight” but “adequate to cover winter needs”, assured the Commissioner for Energy. , Kadri Simson.
Another lead: Ursula von der Leyen said she was ready to examine the formation of prices and to increase the “transparency” of the market. “We must look at the possibility of decoupling the prices of electricity and those of gas, because we have (in the EU) cheaper energies, for example renewables”, she underlined.
No question of touching environmental ambitions
While some states such as Hungary criticize the EU’s “Green Deal” aimed at reducing its carbon emissions by 55% by 2030, and the CO2 market where energy suppliers must pay “rights to pollute ”, the Commission remains firm. “Only 1 / 5th of the increase in current prices can be attributed to the increase in the carbon market, the rest comes from supply shortages,” said Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the Commission. “If we had adopted this Green Deal five years earlier, we would have been much less dependent on natural gas,” he added.
An opinion shared by the International Energy Agency. “The transition is too slow”: the world will suffer from global warming but also “turbulence” in terms of supply, if it does not invest more massively and rapidly in clean energies, the IEA warned on Wednesday. According to her, “a new economy is emerging” (batteries, hydrogen, etc.) but all this progress is countered by “the resistance of the status quo and fossil fuels”: oil, gas and coal still constitute 80% of final consumption of energy, generating three quarters of climate change. And to warn: “Investments in low-carbon energy projects will have to triple within ten years, for carbon neutrality by 2050.”