EU edges towards gas price cap with more emergency talks

  • Commission may make proposal after November talks
  • Countries still divided over price cap
  • Gas prices have fallen in recent days

BRUSSELS, Oct 25 (Reuters) - European Union energy ministers will hold another emergency meeting in November to try to make progress on a bloc-wide gas price cap, after talks on Tuesday left it unclear when Brussels would make a firm proposal on the measure.

EU countries have debated capping gas prices for weeks as some countries have backed the idea as a way to stem energy cost rises triggered by plummeting Russian gas supplies, while others have opposed it.

Ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday discussed how an EU gas price limit could work, and agreed to hold another emergency meeting on the issue on Nov. 24. The November meeting is also expected to adopt other emergency measures proposed by the Commission, the EU executive, last week, including rules to launch joint EU gas buying.

It would be the fourth EU emergency debate on energy since July, as the EU has rushed through measures designed to save fuel, fill gas storage and raise cash to help consumers with bills.

Czech industry minister Jozef Sikela, who chaired Tuesday's talks, said there had been wide support among ministers for the introduction of a "dynamic price cap on electricity and gas which would limit the excessive price spikes in case of market panic".

As part of the package of energy measures last week, the Commission asked for countries' approval to draft a proposal for a price limit on trades at the Title Transfer Facility (TTF) Dutch gas hub, which could be triggered if prices spiked.

EU energy chief Kadri Simson did not confirm when the Commission would formally propose a gas price cap, but said it would "have next steps prepared" in time for the November meeting, where ministers could agree to request an EU gas price cap proposal.


EU diplomats said countries remained split over the idea, with some describing Tuesday's talks as a repeat of previous EU debates on the issue that have been inconclusive.

Ministers had "the same discussion we've been having for weeks," one diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Germany and the Netherlands are among those that are sceptical of a price cap, citing the risk it would cause gas use to rise or leave countries struggling to buy enough. Belgium, Italy, Poland and 12 other countries have called for a cap to help limit inflation.

"We have a number of questions over interventions in the gas market," Dutch climate minister Rob Jetten said after the meeting, calling instead for tougher energy saving measures to help curb prices.

Any proposal would need to be negotiated by EU countries and passed with support from a reinforced majority of at least 15 states.

Gas costs have dropped in recent days, in response to unseasonably mild weather and as countries have filled storage tanks - although Sikela said an EU cap was still needed to guard against any future price spikes. "The game is not over," he said.

Ahead of Tuesday's talks, the Commission shared a document with countries that cautioned against another type of price cap, for gas used to generate power, which it said could cause an increase in gas use.

Reporting by Kate Abnett, Charlotte Van Campenhout, Philip Blenkinsop; additional reporting by Susanna Twidale and Josie Kao; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis

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