In view of the precarious situation of gas traders, the federal government is considering introducing additional network fees for private and industrial customers.

According to information from the FAZ, the so-called market area manager, the company Trading Hub Europe (THE), is to provide liquidity support to the large traders such as Uniper so that they can pay for the replacement gas procurement, which has risen sharply in price.

Due to the massive reduction in Russian deliveries via the main pipeline Nord Stream 1, the energy suppliers have to buy the natural gas elsewhere at significantly higher tariffs, but cannot pass these price increases directly on to their customers, such as companies or public utilities.

Christian Geinitz

Business correspondent in Berlin

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Helmut Buender

Business correspondent in Düsseldorf.

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Paragraph 24 of the new Energy Security Act ENSIG provides for price adjustment rights in the event of reduced gas imports.

The prerequisite is the declaration of the alarm level in the gas emergency plan by the Federal Ministry of Economics, which took place last week.

But the regulation is controversial and, according to information from government circles, should not be applied in its current form.

Paragraph 24 states that the energy supply companies along the supply chain have the right to raise their gas prices for their customers to a "reasonable level".

But the definition is unclear.

In addition, the energy companies fear waves of lawsuits from customers and politicians fear dissatisfaction among customers because not everyone would be equally affected.

Is that fast enough?

This is where the new "pay-as-you-go" procedure comes in via THE, a subsidiary of the transmission system operators, which ensures balanced gas management in Germany in a quasi-monopoly and quasi-sovereign way.

If the new plans that the government factions are currently discussing come true, THE will act as a kind of clearing house in the future.

Unlike when filling the storage tank, she does not buy gas herself, but first checks the additional costs that the gas traders report.

This assessment is considered to be much more accurate than the "reasonable" price disclosure according to the ENSIG.

In the next step, THE equalizes the delta thus determined between purchase and sales prices, which is intended to avert the energy suppliers' liquidity bottlenecks and thus their possible insolvency.

The refinancing takes place via increased network charges, which affect all customers, both private and commercial.

As an analogy, reference is made to the electricity levy under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG levy).

The solution is considered to be legally secure, transparent and politically easier to communicate than the options according to ENSIG.

It is still unclear how high the price increases will be for customers, but they could be significant: in the industry it is said that gas traders lose a three-digit million amount every day, around one billion a week.

These sums would have to be "socialized", i.e. borne by the customers.

As can be heard, the gas industry supports the planned path, but does not want to comment on it.

The Federal Ministry of Economics also “does not want to comment” on the plans, as a spokeswoman says.

However, the responsible association Zukunft Gas draws attention to the plight of the industry.

“The procurement of a replacement causes considerable additional costs.

We are facing a financial crisis in the gas trade that urgently needs to be resolved," said association board member Timm Kehler of the FAZ

The big question is whether the help will come quickly enough.

Because the ENSIG would have to be changed for this.

If the gas traders ran out of money before then, they would have to do without the expensive replacement purchase.

Bridge financing from the federal government is therefore being discussed, which could provide further loans from KfW.

KfW is already supporting the utility Wingas with ten billion euros after Gazprom had largely stopped supplying its former subsidiary.

Alternatively, Uniper calls for a direct stake in the form of equity, which would amount to partial nationalization.

Without rapid state intervention, there is a risk of a "gas shortage", which would probably result in the federal government declaring an emergency level in the gas emergency plan.

Then the Federal Network Agency would have to allocate the scarce gas to industry as the "federal load distributor".

For the time being, private consumers are protected from such rationing.

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