EU seeks guidelines to cushion consumers from huge energy price hikes this winter  

Benchmark European gas prices have risen by more than 250% since January
EU seeks guidelines to cushion consumers from huge energy price hikes this winter  

European power prices have rocketed this year, more than trebling in Spain and elsewhere, mainly fuelled by the rising price of gas used for power generation and heating, in addition to low renewable energy output and higher EU carbon prices.

The EU is drafting guidelines on steps members can take to tackle power price spikes without breaching energy market rules, officials said, as consumers face a sharp rise in bills with winter approaching.

European power prices have rocketed this year, more than trebling in Spain and elsewhere, mainly fuelled by the rising price of gas used for power generation and heating, in addition to low renewable energy output and higher EU carbon prices.

In a meeting of energy ministers from EU countries, EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said Brussels was working on guidance to help countries tackle the price spike, Spanish environment minister Teresa Ribera said after the discussion.

"The commissioner concluded the debate by sharing that they are working on the preparation of proposals for flexible options to be able to tackle this situation at European level, and that in the coming weeks they will make their proposals known to all," Ms Ribera said in a statement.

EU officials said the commission guidelines would help EU states act without breaking the EU's energy market regulations.

Benchmark European gas prices have risen by more than 250% since January, spiking as economies around the world reopened from Covid-19 lockdowns, with high demand in Asia pushing down supplies to Europe. 

It has sent shockwaves through gas-reliant industries, which include everything from power generation to makers of CO2 used in the food trade.

Spain has led calls for the EU to organise a more coordinated response to the price spikes. It asked the commission earlier this week to provide options for how EU states could respond. 

Spain, Italy, Greece, and other others are already planning national measures, ranging from subsidies to price caps. 

Germany said it did not see a need for government intervention to counter rising gas prices.

Slovenian infrastructure minister Jernej Vrtovec, who was leading the ministerial meeting, said the surge in electricity and gas prices was "not OK for our economy, for our citizens". 

Analysts have said surging gas prices, rather than the price that European companies pay for permits to cover their CO2 emissions, were mainly responsible for rising electricity costs. 

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