German state premier calls for gas price cap to start in January

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 21 Oct, 2022 Updated Fri 21 Oct 2022 10:58 CEST
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North-Rhine Westphalia state premier Hendrik Wüst (CDU) arrives at the State Premiers' Conference in Hannover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Hendrik Wüst (CDU), the state premier of North-Rhine Westphalia, has urged the government to start capping gas prices at the start of next year instead of in spring.

Speaking on the last day of meetings between state and federal leaders in Hannover, Wüst said plans to introduce the cap from March would mean people were left without help in the winter months. 

"We have to support people effectively in this difficult time," Wüst told DPA. "The gas price brake must come earlier and be felt in people's wallets."

The CDU politician is calling for a cap to come into force on January 1st - directly after a one-time payment from the government to cover heating costs in December. He said January and February would be the months when the gas price cap was particularly badly needed. 

"Private households and our economy need uninterrupted support," Wüst said. "It would be wrong for the traffic light government to stall over the winter." 

READ ALSO: How Germany is planning to cap electricity prices

If the energy suppliers aren't ready to change their billing system in January, then the relief must at least be backdated to January 1st, he added.

The two-day State Premiers' Conference (MPK) - which sees state leaders meet with ministers from the federal government - was due to end at midday on Friday.

According to media reports, meetings with Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) were scheduled for the final morning of the conference.

The ongoing energy crisis, which has left many households struggling to pay their bills following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, was expected to be high up on the agenda at the MPK. 

In particular, states have been calling for clarity on how best to implement the forthcoming gas price cap in their regions. 

An announcement is also expected on funding for the €49 ticket - the potential successor to the €9 ticket put forward by transport ministers this month.

Ministers have said they are in agreement about the details of the €49 deal, but state transport ministers are calling for additional finance from the federal government to cover their rising costs. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How will Germany’s new €49 travel ticket work?

Energy relief measures 

As a major supplier of natural gas, Russia has frequently weaponised the energy markets in retaliation for Europe's ongoing support for Ukraine. 

Since 2021, gas prices have more than doubled, driving high inflation across the board and landing households and businesses with hefty energy bills. 

To dampen the impact of these soaring prices, Germany's Gas Price Commission has recommended that government implement a phased model of support. 

This foresees the government stepping in to pay people's gas bills in December and then freezing gas prices (up to a certain allowance) for private households, small-and-medium sized businesses and industry from March 2023. 

However, the German Social Welfare Association (SoVD) has criticised the fact that the gas price cap will come into force at a time when costs have already risen significantly.

SoVD board chair Michaela Engelmeier has called for the government to instead cap bills at a lower price and introduce an additional price cap for other heating sources such as oil. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Will Germany set a gas price cap and how would it work?

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