Europe has never seen such a sharp rise in energy prices.

In Germany, a megawatt hour of electricity in wholesale cost just under 214 euros on Wednesday morning.

This is the highest price since November 13 years ago.

According to the Federal Network Agency, the average price over the year to date is EUR 68, well above the long-term average.

Even if procurement on the electricity exchange only makes up a small part of the end customer price, experts expect higher costs for consumers.

Hendrik Kafsack

Business correspondent in Brussels.

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Philip Plickert

Business correspondent based in London.

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In Spain and Portugal the development is even more dramatic.

Wholesale prices there, at an average of 175 euros per megawatt hour, are around three times as high as six months ago.

In Great Britain the prices for electricity are even over 180 euros.

The high wholesale prices for gas are also putting increasing pressure on energy suppliers.

In Italy, gas costs a third more than in spring, and even in France, where prices are heavily regulated, customers have to pay 10 percent more than a year ago.

Contingency plans in some countries

In the UK, the price rally in September drove six smaller utilities to bankruptcy. After two other companies filed for bankruptcy on Thursday night, 1.5 million gas and electricity customers are now affected. You have to switch to new providers and pay higher prices there. The UK regulator has approved an increase in the upper limit for an average household's energy bill by 12 percent to £ 1,277 as of October 1st.

Spain, Italy, but also Greece have now adopted emergency plans to mitigate the consequences of the price hike for customers. At the same time, they demand that the EU intervene. Spain is demanding that the price hike be placed on the agenda of the next regular meeting of heads of state and government in Brussels at the end of October. Italy, Romania, Poland and Hungary have also spoken out in favor. On Wednesday, the topic dominated an informal meeting of EU energy ministers in Slovenia, where they were supposed to discuss the Commission's climate package from July.

At the end of the meeting, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson announced that the Commission would present proposals in the coming weeks on how states could mitigate the effects of the price hike.

The main focus is on national programs to support households threatened by energy poverty or tax breaks for companies, the commission made clear on Thursday.

New EU requirements are not to be expected.

It is about clarifying what is possible within the existing rules.

Gazprom under suspicion

The price hike comes at an inopportune time for the Commission. A quick goodbye to the “Fit for 55” climate package from July is hardly imaginable under these circumstances. The planned expansion of emissions trading to include buildings and traffic, a core element of the package, was already controversial, as countries such as Spain or France and in fact all Eastern European countries are blocking the associated higher costs for their citizens. The price rally now threatens to further undermine support for the Green Deal. "We now need transitional rules to protect consumers from the worst price increases," said Irish Energy Minister Eamon Ryan on Wednesday.

The Commission is currently doing everything it can to make it clear that the high prices have little or nothing to do with the EU's climate policy. The share of emissions trading in the price increase is minimal, it has been said for days. It is a maximum of a fifth. The rise in the cost of emission rights to more than 60 euros per tonne of CO2 does nothing to change that. The Commission reacted cautiously to demands from Madrid and Warsaw to do more to prevent speculators from manipulating the price of emission rights. The rise in energy prices was mainly caused by the global gas market, a spokesman emphasized on Thursday.

Poland called on the Commission on Wednesday to examine whether the Russian energy company Gazprom was manipulating the market in a targeted manner.

At the same time, Spain is campaigning to strengthen the EU's negotiating position and thereby the creation of a central purchasing platform for gas.

"Natural market activity"

The Vice President of the Commission responsible for climate policy, Frans Timmermans, is even trying to reinterpret the rise in gas prices as an argument in favor of the Green Deal. “If we had implemented the Green Deal five years earlier, then we would not be in this situation now, but independent of gas and other fossil energy resources,” he says. “The only thing we cannot afford is that the social side is opposed to the climate side. I see this threat very clearly now that we are discussing the price hike in the energy sector, ”admits Timmermans, however. The Commission wants to cushion this with a climate social fund.

In Germany, the network agency evaluates the energy price rally as "natural market events".

After all, there are reasons with the higher raw material prices and more expensive CO2 certificates.

The authority also cites the recently weak feed-in from renewable energy as a reason - and points out that the storm gusts expected for Thursday immediately caused a price drop in electricity wholesale.

The share of wind power in the German electricity mix was unusually low at around 11 percent in September.

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