Germany increases controversial gas surcharge – Euractiv FR

The intermediary company responsible for overseeing German gas markets, Trading Hub Europe (THE), announced on Tuesday (21 May) that Germany’s controversial gas transit surcharge will increase from July, potentially to aggravate tensions with Austria and Brussels on this subject.

In the summer of 2022, Germany saw its main gas supplier, Russia, restrict its exports. Panicked, the government then launched into frenzied purchases, investing in gas at a time when prices were very high to fill its stocks before winter.

Today, Berlin faces the financial repercussions of buying billions of cubic meters of gas when prices were high, which now must be sold at a lower price.

To compensate for losses and cover associated storage costs, the intermediary company responsible for overseeing its gas markets, THE, decided to levy a surcharge on gas sales so that consumers bear the cost. And Germany’s neighbors have also been affected, since any gas passing through German gas pipelines is subject to this additional tax.

And from July, the surcharge will be increased by 34% to reach 2.50 euros per MWh, the operator announced on Tuesday.

Austria, supported by countries including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, believes the surcharge hampers the phase-out of Russian gas because gas from elsewhere is imported via liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. from Western Europe becomes more expensive due to the German transit tax.

For Vienna, this tax is contrary to the principle of free movement of goods within the EU. Questioned by a MEP in April, the European Commission replied that it “was closely following the situation in the EU and was in contact with the German authorities regarding the legality of gas storage fees”.

In the past, the German government has insisted that the tax complies with EU rules and contributes to the stability of the European gas market by financing annual storage obligations.

“We continue to hold intensive discussions with the Commission and Member States on this issue”a spokesperson for the German Ministry of Economy and Climate Action told Euractiv.

THE, responsible for levying the tax and maintaining gas storage levels at the highest, justified the increase in the surcharge in the context of a rapid fall in gas prices.

“In 2022, THE purchased around 50 TWh of gas at an average price of around 175 EUR/MWh for storage”explained the operator, adding that if it managed to sell a quarter of the gas at 50% of the purchase price, the remaining volume had to be sold at less than a third of the purchase price.

Experts and industry associations also criticize the surcharge.

“The European Commission should now move up a gear and make its voice heard”wrote Christoph Dolna-Gruber, an Austrian expert, on compensate for the massive losses caused.

Electricity sector association Eurelectric, for its part, argued that the tax violated the EU’s free trade principles.

[Édité par Anna Martino]

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