German minister accuses gas-supplying countries of ripoff prices

Federal Economics and Climate Minister Robert Habeck says friendly countries are charging Germany too much for gas and should show more solidarity.

German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speaks in Berlin.
German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speaks in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Habeck, from the Greens, singled out the United States in particular, saying it was charging excessive Mondpreise – or ‘moon prices’ – a German expression for an overly high fee or ‘ripoff’.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Germany sourced 55 percent of its natural gas – which half of German homes use for heat – from Russia.

Now that Russia has shut off deliveries to Germany in retaliation for EU sanctions, Germany has had to turn to suppliers like Norway and temporary liquefied natural gas terminals (LNG) on its north coast to get gas from faraway places like the US and Qatar.

With Europe in general – and Germany in particular – facing an energy crisis this winter and power bills more than doubling, Habeck called on the US to return historical favours.

‘The US approached us when oil prices skyrocketed,’ Habeck told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper. ‘European countries tapped into their national oil reserves as a result. I think such solidarity would also be good for curbing gas prices.’

Habeck also says European countries should band together through the EU to negotiate more favourable gas prices with offshore suppliers, in order to get a better bargain by not bidding against each other.

Other EU countries, however, have blasted Germany for rejecting a Europe-wide gas price gap and planning on moving ahead with its own – a key measure in a new €200 billion spending package announced last week that dwarfs the energy relief supplied by any other European country.

READ ALSO: Germany to thrash out details of €200 billion energy support package

Such a gas price cap would see a maximum amount households would pay for at least a ‘basic level of consumption,’ possibly around 75-80 percent of what the average family uses, with 20-25 percent of consumption allowed to float, in order to incentivise people to save energy.

The government would then be on the hook to pay the difference between the capped level for consumers and the market rate – something that could cost billions in new debt.

The federal government’s expert group says it is working flat out to present ministers with its exact proposal for how a cap should work in practice by the weekend.

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German energy firm RWE takes Gazprom to court over supply halts

German's RWE said Tuesday it is taking legal action against Russia's Gazprom over halted gas supplies, the latest German company to do so since Moscow invaded Ukraine.

German energy firm RWE takes Gazprom to court over supply halts

Following the invasion, Gazprom steadily dwindled pipeline supplies to Germany in apparent retaliation for Western sanctions on Russia, sending energy prices soaring.

Last week, German energy giant Uniper said it was seeking damages from Gazprom at an international tribunal, as the Russian company’s failure to deliver gas had cost them billions of euros.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Uniper takes Gazprom to court over halted gas supplies

An RWE spokeswoman confirmed to AFP the company had also launched action, but declined to give further details.

Gazprom’s failure to deliver promised supplies has meant that German companies, long heavily reliant on Russian energy, had to buy gas on world markets at far higher prices.

Financial daily Handelsblatt reported that the costs incurred by RWE were likely lower, at around €1 billion, than those faced by Uniper.

Uniper had far larger contracts, and has put its losses from the supply halts at €11.6 billion. Gazprom has rejected Uniper’s claims.

The company, Germany’s biggest gas importer, has agreed a deal to be nationalised after Russia’s drastic reduction in supplies pushed it to the brink of bankruptcy.

READ ALSO: How Germany became ensnared by Russian gas

It reported a €40 billion net loss for the first nine months of the
year, one of the biggest losses in German corporate history.