The severely curtailed Russian deliveries are increasing the pressure on importers. How should price jumps be passed on? There could be a solidarity system.

With a new mechanism, the federal government could distribute sharp gas price increases more fairly among consumers. A draft for an amendment to the Energy Security Act envisages a pay-as-you-go system as an additional option.

This means that the burden can be distributed “more evenly” across all consumers, according to the draft. This was presented to the German Press Agency on Friday.

In concrete terms, it is therefore a matter of compensation financed by way of a levy. Gas importers, who are currently heavily burdened by the severe cutbacks in Russian gas supplies, would get this because they cannot pass price jumps on to customers.

There was talk in government circles that it was not yet a final draft. New instruments are being sought to prevent heavy burdens for gas customers in the event of a gas shortage.

Right to price adjustment

The existing Energy Security Act allows utilities to have a “right to adjust prices”. To do this, the Federal Network Agency must have formally determined a “significant reduction in the total gas import volumes to Germany”, which has not yet happened. If the mechanism is activated, suppliers could pass on their current additional costs to their customers within a short period of time. However, this could have very different consequences for customers, depending on which supplier they get gas from.

In energy industry circles it was said that the advantage of a pay-as-you-go system for consumers would be a broader distribution. The state could pre-finance the financial compensation for the gas importers.

There was a levy procedure for the EEG levy to promote green electricity. The levy on the electricity bill has been abolished since this Friday in order to relieve consumers.

The head of the Stadtwerkeverband VKU, Ingbert Liebing, told the dpa: “From a pragmatic point of view, we support a levy solution as a further option. Of course, this new allocation would have to be accompanied by social compensation.”

The FDP energy expert Michael Kruse told the dpa: “The legal framework for charging a surcharge on the gas price must be discussed thoroughly. The traffic light should not allow itself to be rushed with such a serious intervention in market prices. If the legal basis for this is created, there must be strict requirements for its activation.”

Uniper in turbulence

Germany’s largest importer of Russian natural gas, Uniper, has encountered turbulence due to the severe cutback in Russian supplies. The group is negotiating support measures with the federal government. Uniper plays a central role in the German energy supply.

According to its own statements, the company has only received 40 percent of the contractually guaranteed gas quantities from Gazprom since mid-June and has to procure expensive replacements. So far, Uniper has not been able to pass on these additional costs – this results in significant burdens.

Economics Minister Robert Habeck made it clear on Thursday that he fears a complete lack of Russian gas supplies from Nord Stream. From July 11, there is a threat of “a total blockade of Nord Stream 1,” said the Green politician. That’s why it can be really problematic in winter. The gas supply over the summer is guaranteed. On July 11, Nord Stream begins annual maintenance work, which usually lasts ten days. Then no gas flows through Nord Stream 1. The big concern is that Russia will not turn on the gas tap again after the maintenance.

The head of the energy association BDEW, Kerstin Andreae, had said with regard to Uniper: “It must be ensured that the entire supply chain continues to function and not one component breaks out.” This also includes the possibility of being able to pass on increased costs as quickly as possible. The BDEW prefers a cost allocation solution that distributes the additional costs in times of crisis in solidarity. Since the costs are only refinanced with a time lag via such a levy, the Federal Government should initially finance these costs in advance.