In the traffic light coalition, the FDP is urging that gas prices be reduced first by increasing the energy supply before talking about a price brake and state support.

SPD and Greens want the latter.

Statements by FDP leader and Finance Minister Christian Lindner and parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr point to a political barter: nuclear and coal-fired power plants should continue to run before state intervention, and in the gas industry it should be considered to release parts of the reserves bought by the federal government.

The Federal Network Agency and the responsible company Trading Hub Europe (THE) confirmed on Tuesday that the latter is possible.

Corinna Budras

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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Christian Geinitz

Business correspondent in Berlin

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On the occasion of the European Economic Conference of the FAZ in Berlin, Lindner told the FAZ podcast for Germany that in addition to a European approach, national efforts must also be expected, "such as the extension of nuclear energy and economic measures such as the resumption of sales of those stored by the state gas quantities".

These "have to be put back on the market, which reduces the scarcity," demanded Lindner.

He expressed himself in the discussion about the gas levy that the Ministry of Economic Affairs introduced by Robert Habeck (Greens) to save importers like Uniper.

However, since the group is now being nationalized, the surcharge should be abolished shortly after it officially came into force on Saturday.

On Tuesday it was said that the end would be decided at the federal cabinet meeting this Wednesday at the latest.

First advance payments planned for the end of October

The first advance payments to the importers are actually scheduled for the end of October.

Instead of the surcharge, there should also be a price brake for gas, as with electricity.

Lindner was open to this, but it is still unclear where the money should come from to pay the difference between high purchasing and capped sales tariffs.

Greens and SPD want tax funds, Lindner hesitates because he doesn't want to jeopardize the debt brake.

In the FAZ podcast for Germany, he said that the first step was to expand the electricity and gas supply: "Then there are the questions of supporting the market with public funds."

Dürr said on Deutschlandfunk that the levy was no longer politically wanted.

Initiated by Habeck, she came too late for the Uniper rescue.

However, the "legal situation" is that the levy will still take effect on October 1st.

According to Dürr, the instrument is to be replaced by a gas price brake.

It is important to keep the price low in order to avoid damage that would later have to be painstakingly repaired by the state, for example through economic aid.

The taxpayer cannot bear such distortions.

Releasing the debt brake is not an instrument against the price increase: "If we continue to open the barn door with taxpayer money, then that would further fuel inflation."

Dürr demanded that market interventions instead of the gas surcharge be combined with expansions in the supply of energy.

After all, the high prices are an expression of scarcity.

“As the FDP, we can imagine that a gas price brake will come.

But now, frankly, I expect the Greens to move on the issue of extending the service life of nuclear power plants and restarting coal-fired power plants.” Eight coal-fired reactors are in reserve.

There should be similar expansions for gas: "We now also have to show perspectives, for example how gas can be withdrawn from the gas storage tanks again, so that gas can also be made available to the market again." The fuel should be used to produce heat.

The Federal Network Agency confirmed that the storage levels, which had been built up to 91.3 percent, could drop to 40 percent by February 2023.

THE is offering the first storage volumes for spring 2023.

"We have always said: The gas storage tanks are filled in order to empty them again over the winter," said network agency boss Klaus Müller of the FAZ. "The short-term sale by THE on the futures market creates certainty that the stored gas will be returned to the market.

That should also dampen prices.”

THE itself stated that they actually wanted to sell the wholesale quantities "market-based".

“Apart from that, the volume and price expectations are the exclusive responsibility of the authorities.” According to the law, withdrawal can be made to compensate for a drop in gas deliveries, said Sebastian Kemper, one of THE managing directors.

"This means that if the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Network Agency decide on a path here, this would be conceivable."

THE paid an average of 185 euros per megawatt hour, it said.

This demand has supported the price increase, but the proportion of inflation is small.

The company has not yet been informed of the end of the gas surcharge: "Therefore, we continue to expect and plan to start on October 1st." Apparently, people are not happy about the end of the process, which cost a lot of effort and money.

In any case, the other managing director, Thomas Becker, speaks of "countless hours that our employees have invested to implement this new process and to meet all the requirements so that THE also has the necessary liquidity".