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Energy prices: Commission presents a toolbox of measures to tackle exceptional situation and its impacts

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The Commission has adopted a Communication on Energy Prices, to tackle the exceptional rise in global energy prices, which is projected to last through the winter, and help Europe's people and businesses. The Communication includes a “toolbox” that the EU and its member states can use to address the immediate impact of current prices increases, and further strengthen resilience against future shocks. Short-term national measures include emergency income support to households, state aid for companies, and targeted tax reductions. The Commission will also support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency; examine possible measures on energy storage and purchasing of gas reserves; and assess the current electricity market design.

Presenting the toolbox, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said: “Rising global energy prices are a serious concern for the EU. As we emerge from the pandemic and begin our economic recovery, it is important to protect vulnerable consumers and support European companies. The Commission is helping Member States to take immediate measures to reduce the impact on households and businesses this winter. At the same time, we identify other medium-term measures to ensure that our energy system is more resilient and more flexible to withstand any future volatility throughout the transition. The current situation is exceptional, and the internal energy market has served us well for the past 20 years. But we need to be sure that it continues to do so in the future, delivering on the European Green Deal, boosting our energy independence and meeting our climate goals."

A toolbox of short- and medium-term measures

The current price spike requires a rapid and coordinated response. The existing legal framework enables the EU and its Member States to take action to address the immediate impacts on consumers and businesses.

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Priority should be given to targeted measures that can rapidly mitigate the impact of price rises for vulnerable consumers and small businesses. These measures should be easily adjustable in the Spring, when the situation is expected to stabilise. Our long-term transition and investments in cleaner energy sources should not be disrupted.

Immediate measures to protect consumers and businesses:

  • Provide emergency income support for energy-poor consumers, for example through vouchers or partial bill payments, which can be supported with EU ETS revenues;
  • Authorise temporary deferrals of bill payments;
  • Put in place safeguards to avoid disconnections from the grid;
  • Provide temporary, targeted reductions in taxation rates for vulnerable households;
  • Provide aid to companies or industries, in line with EU state aid rules;
  • Enhance international energy outreach to ensure the transparency, liquidity and flexibility of international markets;
  • Investigate possible anti-competitive behaviour in the energy market and ask the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) to further enhance monitoring of developments in the carbon market;
  • Facilitate a wider access to renewable power purchase agreements and support them via flanking measures.

The clean energy transition is the best insurance against price shocks in the future, and needs to be accelerated. The EU will continue to develop an efficient energy system with high share of renewable energy. While cheaper renewables play an increasing role in supplying the electricity grid and setting the price, other energy sources, including gas, are still required in times of higher demand. Under the current market design gas still sets the overall electricity price when it is deployed as all producers receive the same price for the same product when it enters the grid - electricity. There is general consensus that the current marginal pricing model is the most efficient one, but further analysis is warranted. The crisis has also drawn attention to the importance of storage for the functioning of the EU gas market. The EU currently has storage capacity for more than 20% of its annual gas use, but not all Member States have storage facilities and their use and obligations to maintain them vary.

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Medium-term measures for a decarbonised and resilient energy system:

  • Step up investments in renewables, renovations and energy efficiency and speed up renewables auctions and permitting processes;
  • Develop energy storage capacity, to support the evolving renewables share, including batteries and hydrogen;
  • Ask European energy regulators (ACER) to study the benefits and drawbacks of the existing electricity market design and propose recommendations to the Commission where relevant;
  • Consider revising the security of supply regulation to ensure a better use and functioning of gas storage in Europe;
  • Explore the potential benefits of voluntary joint procurement by Member States of gas stocks;
  • Set up new cross-border regional gas risk groups to analyse risks and advise member states on the design of their national preventive and emergency action plans;
  • Boost the role of consumers in the energy market, by empowering them to choose and change suppliers, generate their own electricity, and join energy communities.

The measures set out in the toolbox will help to provide a timely response to the current energy price spikes, which are the consequence of an exceptional global situation. They will also contribute to an affordable, just and sustainable energy transition for Europe, and greater energy independence. Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency will not only reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, but also provide more affordable wholesale energy prices that are more resilient to global supply constraints. The clean energy transition is the best insurance against price shocks like this in the in the future, and needs to be accelerated, also for the sake of the climate.

Background

The EU, like many other regions in the world, is currently experiencing a sharp spike in energy prices. This is principally driven by increased global demand for energy, and in particular gas, as the economic recovery after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic gathers speed. The European carbon price has also risen sharply in 2021, but at a lesser rate than gas prices. The effect of the gas price increase on the electricity price is nine times larger than the impact of the carbon price increase.

The Commission has been consulting widely on the appropriate response to the current situation, and has participated in debates on this issue with Members of the European Parliament and Ministers in the Council of the European Union, while also reaching out to industry and to international energy suppliers. Several Member States have already announced national measures to mitigate price rises, but others are looking to the Commission for guidance on what steps they can take. Some international partners have already indicated plans to increase their energy deliveries to Europe.

The toolbox presented today allows for a coordinated response to protect those most at risk. It is carefully designed to tackle the short-term needs of bringing down energy costs for households and businesses, without harming the EU internal energy market or the green transition in the medium-term.

Next Steps

Commissioner Simson will present the Communication and toolbox to Members of the European Parliament on Thursday 14 October and to Energy Ministers on 26 October. European Leaders are then due to discuss energy prices at the upcoming European Council on 21-22 October. This Communication is the Commission's contribution to the continued debate among EU policy makers. The Commission will continue its exchanges with national administrations, industry, consumer groups and international partners on this important topic, and stands ready to respond to any additional requests from member states.

More information

Communication on Energy Prices

Questions and Answers on the Communication on Energy Prices

Factsheet on the EU Energy Market and Energy Prices

Factsheet on the toolbox

EU energy prices webpage

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Energy

Commission proposes new list of Projects of Common Interest for a more integrated and resilient energy market

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The European Commission has adopted the fifth list of energy Projects of Common Interest (PCIs). These are key cross-border energy infrastructure projects for building a more integrated and resilient EU internal energy market and pursuing our energy and climate goals. This fifth PCI list comprises 98 projects: 67 projects in electricity transmission and storage, 20 in gas, six CO2 network projects and five smart grid projects. All PCI projects are subject to streamlined permitting and regulatory procedures and eligible for financial support from the EU's Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

The 67 electricity transmission and storage projects on the PCI list will make an important contribution to the increased renewable energy ambition under the European Green Deal, while five smart grid projects will improve efficiency of the networks, cross-border data coordination and safer grid management. No new gas infrastructure project is supported by the proposal. The few, selected gas projects, which have already been on the 4th PCI list, are projects that are necessary to ensure security of supply for all Member States. A strengthened sustainability assessment has led to a number of gas projects being dropped from the list.  

Today's list is established under the existing Trans-European Network-Energy (TEN-E) Regulation. In December 2020, the Commission proposed a revision of the TEN-E regulation which would end the eligibility of oil and gas infrastructure projects for future PCI lists and create an obligation for all projects to meet mandatory sustainability criteria as well as to follow the ‘do no significant harm' principle as set out in the Green Deal.

Next steps

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Following its adoption by the Commission today, the Delegated Act with the 5th PCI list will be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council. Both co-legislators have two months to either accept or reject the list – a process which can be extended by a further two months, if needed. Based on the applicable legal provisions, the co-legislators do not have the possibility to amend the draft list.

More information

Delegated regulation on 5th list of Projects of Common Interest
Annex on the 5
th list of Projects of Common Interest (5th PCI list)
Staff Working Document on the 5th list of Projects of Common Interest
Q&A on 5
th list of Projects of Common Interest
Projects of Common Interest webpage
PCI interactive map
Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)

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Energy

Kick-off of the fourth edition of the Just Transition Platform Meeting

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The fourth edition of the Just Transition Platform Meeting - Coal Regions in Transition virtual week and Carbon-intensive regions seminars, hosted by the Commission, has begun - until 17 November, the meeting in an online format will gather representatives from coal, peat and shale oil and carbon-intensive regions around the EU.

Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson will deliver a speech at the opening session. In the framework of several thematic sessions, member states, local and regional authorities, non-governmental organisations, social partners and EU institutions will exchange experiences and learn from one another in the journey towards a just transition to a climate-neutral Europe.

The event will provide participants with updates on the state of play of the Just Transition Fund programming negotiations and the Territorial Just Transition Plans, as well as an update on EU energy and climate policies, also in light of recent coal phase out announcements by several Member States. The agenda will also feature the launch of the Just Transition Platform Working Groups on chemicals, steel, cement and horizontal stakeholder strategy. A Multi-level Dialogue has also been organised by the Committee of the Regions as a side-event to the Just Transition Platform Meeting. The Just Transition Platform assists EU countries and regions with the just transition providing comprehensive technical and advisory support as a single access point and helpdesk. All details can be found here

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EU steel industry

EU and US agree to start discussions on a Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminium and suspend steel and aluminium trade disputes

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European Commission President von der Leyen and United States President Biden agreed on Sunday to start discussions on a Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminium. This marks a new milestone in the transatlantic relationship, and in EU-US efforts to achieve the decarbonisation of the global steel and aluminium industries in the fight against climate change. The two Presidents also agreed to pause the bilateral World Trade Organization disputes on steel and aluminium. This builds on our recent successes in rebooting the transatlantic trade relationship, such as the launch of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council and the suspension of tariffs in the Boeing-Airbus disputes.

Steel and aluminium manufacturing is one of the highest carbon emission sources globally. For steel and aluminium production and trade to be sustainable, we must address the carbon intensity of the industry, together with problems related to overcapacity. The Global Arrangement will seek to ensure the long-term viability of our industries, encourage low-carbon intensity steel and aluminium production and trade, and restore market-oriented conditions. The arrangement will be open to all like-minded partners to join. Furthermore, following the United States' announcement that they will remove Section 232 tariffs on EU steel and aluminium exports up to past trade volumes, the European Union will take the steps to suspend its rebalancing measures against the United States.

The two sides have also agreed to pause their respective WTO disputes on this issue. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The global arrangement will add a powerful new tool in our quest for sustainability, achieving climate neutrality, and ensuring a level playing field for our steel and aluminium industries. Defusing yet another source of tension in the transatlantic trade partnership will help industries on both sides. This is an important milestone for our renewed, forward-looking agenda with the US.”

More information is available in a press release, Q&A and factsheet.

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