Too high and too low: The problems with energy prices in the EU

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Series Details No.122 (03.12.13)
Publication Date December 2013
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On 11 October, the top executives of ten European energy companies, which jointly own about half of the European Union’s electricity generating capacity, warned that “energy security is no longer guaranteed” and once again called for changes to EU energy policy. Due to persistent adverse conditions in the energy market (linked to, for example, the exceptionally low wholesale energy prices) more and more conventional power plants are being closed down. According to sector representatives, this could lead to energy shortages being seen as early as this winter.

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph published in September of this year, the European industry commissioner Antonio Tajani warned – in a rather alarmist tone – of the disastrous consequences the rising energy prices could have on European industry. Amongst the reasons for the high prices of energy, Tajani mentioned the overambitious pace and methods used to increase the share of renewables in the sector.

In a similar vein, EU President Herman Van Rompuy has highlighted the need to reduce energy costs as a top priority for EU energy policy1. The price of energy has become one of the central issues in the current EU energy debate. The high consumer price of energy – which has been rising steadily over the past several years – poses a serious challenge to both household and industrial users. Meanwhile, the declining wholesale prices are affecting the cost-effectiveness of energy production and the profits of energy companies. The current difficulties, however, are first and foremost a symptom of much wider problems related to the functioning of both the EU energy market as well as to the EU’s climate and energy policies.

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