The dispute over a European gas price cap continues to escalate.

On Thursday in Brussels, Greece, Poland, Belgium, Italy and Spain blocked two decisions by the energy ministers on joint gas purchasing and speeding up the approval process for renewables in order to force a strict price cap.

The European Commission's proposal on Tuesday was "a bad joke," said Polish Minister Anna Moskwa on the fringes of the special meeting of ministers.

Henrik Kafsack

Business correspondent in Brussels.

  • Follow I follow

"We don't need any proposals for faster approval procedures or solidarity now, that has until spring, now it's winter, we need a price cap," Moskva said.

The Spanish Minister Teresa Ribera also described the proposed price cap, which is never actually activated, as a "joke".

Greek Minister Kostas Skrekas called for the price of gas to be capped at 150 to 200 euros.

Now is the right time to test it, as storage is full and the winter is mild, Skrekas said.

If the price cap does not work, the EU could adjust it with a view to winter 2023/2024.

Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark are strictly opposed to the price cap.

Dutch Energy Minister Rob Jetten said the announcement of the price cap alone had led to uncertainty on the markets and thus to higher prices.

"Administrative price regulation does not lead to lower prices, but can lead to gas shortages if done too aggressively," warned State Secretary Sven Giegold, representing Germany.

It is important to go to the causes of the high prices.

These are the dependency on Russian gas and the high consumption.

Another special meeting planned

The European debate about the gas price cap is not about directly capping the price for households and companies, as is the case with the gas price cap in Germany.

It is intended to cap wholesale prices, which could also lower prices for consumers with a time lag.

The Commission – which, like Germany, has long warned against strong interventions in the gas market – had proposed a so-called market correction mechanism on Tuesday, which is intended to prevent extreme fluctuations in the gas markets.

However, this type of cap should only apply from a price of 275 euros per megawatt hour.

However, it should only take effect if the price for the following month on the Amsterdam gas price index TTF ("Month-Ahead") is as high for more than two weeks and is at least 58 euros higher than the price for liquefied gas (LNG).

It would not have been activated even this summer when prices hit record highs.

Although the price had risen to as much as 350 euros, it was only above the 275 euro threshold for a few days.

The EU energy ministers are now to try in another special meeting to reach an agreement on the price cap.

It is to take place on December 13, a few days before the next summit of heads of state and government.

If energy ministers fail to reach an agreement that would also pave the way for member states' joint gas purchasing and faster approval processes, EU leaders could revisit the issue.

The aim, however, is to avoid this at all costs, according to Brussels.

There was no longer any dispute about the two blocked EU laws themselves on Thursday.

There is informal agreement, diplomats said.

With the joint gas purchase, the EU wants to ensure that the member states do not outdo each other when refilling the gas storage tanks from April onwards.

That was one of the main reasons for the very high prices this summer, when Germany in particular was buying at high prices.

In the coming year, the EU states should therefore obtain joint offers for 15 percent of the storage capacity.

The law also facilitates the formation of purchasing cartels.

The emergency ordinance for the approval process for the expansion of renewables and heat pumps is intended to make the EU independent of imports of fuel, especially from Russia, as quickly as possible.

The deadline for the approval of heat pumps and solar systems is to be reduced to a maximum of three months.

It takes six months to modernize wind farms.

They are to be classified as projects of "outstanding public interest".

If the authorities do not comment within the specified period, the permit is deemed to have been granted.

This should initially apply for one and a half years.