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ENERGY

Gas bills in Germany will remain high despite price cap, warns economist

Germany is planning to bring in a cap on the price of gas for consumers. But a leading economist has warned that energy prices will still remain high. What can we expect?

A woman warms up with tea and a blanket in a German flat.
A woman warms up with tea and a blanket in a German flat. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Ole Spata

The German government last week announced a €200 billion relief package to help support private households and companies with spiralling energy prices. 

As part of the plans, a gas price cap is set to come into force in Germany, limiting the amount that people pay to use gas amid rocketing prices. 

The details on how it will work are still being thrashed out. But chairwoman of the gas price commission, Veronika Grimm, has dampened expectations for how big an effect the cap will have on energy bills. 

“We will permanently end our dependence on Russia,” the economics professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.

“So the gas price will remain significantly higher than before the Russian invasion of Ukraine due to higher liquid gas procurement prices – despite a gas price cap.” 

Grim suggested that the gas price cap could be in the form of a one-time payment to encourage people to continue using less gas. 

“It will be important to maintain a high savings incentive,” she said. “With a one-time payment, that would clearly be the case.

“You would have a much lower incentive to save if you lowered the price of gas by a certain percentage.”

On Thursday the Federal Network Agency warned that people in Germany are using too much gas.

“Gas consumption rose too sharply last week,” said Klaus Müller, head of the agency. 

He said gas usage among households and small firms was nearly 10 percent higher last week than the average consumption for the years 2018 to 2021.

“The situation could become very serious if we do not significantly reduce our gas consumption,” said Müller.

Meanwhile, economist Grimm slammed the time pressure that the gas price commission panel was under. The commission is to present proposal to policymakers on how a gas price brake could work in the coming days. 

“The decision to convene such a body could have been made a few months ago; after all, the development in gas prices was foreseeable,” Grimm said.

READ ALSO: German households see record hikes in heating costs 

Vocabulary 

One-time payment – (die) Einmalzahlung

Gas price cap/brake – (die) Gaspreisbremse

Significantly higher – deutlich höher 

Foreseeable – absehbar

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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ENERGY

Uniper rescue to cost Germany an extra €25 billion euros

Troubled gas giant Uniper on Wednesday said the German government would need to spend an additional €25 billion under a planned nationalisation to stave off the firm's collapse in the wake of Russia's war in Ukraine.

Uniper rescue to cost Germany an extra €25 billion euros

The German government agreed in September to nationalise the debt-laden company after Moscow’s closure of a key gas pipeline and sky-high energy prices left Uniper facing bankruptcy.

But the initial €8 billion cash injection from the government “will not be sufficient to stabilise Uniper”, the company said in a statement.

Another capital increase to the tune of €25 billion will be needed to help cover “the enormous additional costs of the Russian gas cuts that continue to be primarily borne by Uniper”, CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach said.

The revised figure comes after Berlin scrapped a controversial plan to make German consumers pay a gas levy to help importers cope with rising prices, which would have covered some of Uniper’s costs.

READ ALSO: Germany reaches deal to nationalise troubled gas giant Uniper

The government will finance the rescue out of a €200 billion “special fund” designed to cushion the impact of the energy crisis on households and businesses.

Uniper said it would ask shareholders to formally approve the rescue deal on December 19th.

As Germany’s biggest gas importer, Uniper has been hit especially hard by the fallout from the Ukraine war, which forced it to buy gas at significantly higher prices on the open market.

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

Germany’s government stepped in to save the company on fears that its collapse could endanger gas supplies and wreak havoc on Europe’s biggest economy.

Germany, which was heavily reliant on Russian gas imports before the war, has raced to find alternative suppliers and fill reserves before the colder winter weather arrives.

The country announced last week that its gas storage facilities were 100 percent full.

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