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Energy industry calls for improvements to the gas surcharge


The gas surcharge is coming, but there is little time for its introduction. Energy companies warn that they and citizens could be overwhelmed by the costs involved.

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Flame on a gas stove

Photo: Patrick Pleul / dpa

Energy suppliers and municipal utilities are raising the alarm about unresolved issues with the gas levy planned from October and criticizing the short deadline for its introduction.

The amount of the surcharge will be determined and published “for the first time by August 15, 2022 in cents per kilowatt hour”, according to the draft regulation on the Energy Security Act (Ensig), which is available to SPIEGEL.

Customers in the so-called basic supply would then probably have to be informed of the new prices with a lead time of six weeks.

"With the usual long notification periods of six weeks in the basic service, this can hardly be achieved by October 1st if the amount of the surcharge is not announced until August 15th," says Ingbert Liebing, Managing Director of the Association of Municipal Companies (VKU).

»This means that the suppliers only have four days to calculate the new prices, to announce them publicly in good time and at the same time to inform all customers by letter.«

If necessary, the government and Bundestag would have to initiate another change to the Ensig in the next few days, according to a letter from the VKU and the Federal Energy Industry Association (BDEW) to energy and economic politicians in the Bundestag, quoted by the Reuters news agency.

»Otherwise there is a risk of considerable economic problems for municipal utilities and energy suppliers with incalculable consequences for the security of supply in Germany.«

The federal government is preparing a levy with which the high costs of importers for the short-term procurement of replacement gas can be passed on to all industrial and household customers with an equal amount per kilowatt hour - despite existing contracts, some of which are long-term.

As initially reported by Reuters, the surcharge cannot affect customers with fixed-price guarantees under the current legal situation.

According to industry estimates, this accounts for up to a quarter of the contracts.

It is also doubtful whether the levy includes customers with gas-based district heating.

However, this would destroy the aim of the project, which is to distribute the costs fairly and evenly.

In concrete terms, the surcharge should work in such a way that gas importers report month after month how much gas they have to buy as a substitute on the market and at what price.

Accounting firms should then check whether the information is realistic.

Then the so-called market area manager, i.e. the company Trading Hub Europe (THE), would reimburse the additional costs.

In a second step, THE, a cooperation of long-distance gas network operators in Germany, would get the money back from the respective local suppliers - depending on where and how much gas was consumed.

The federal government assumes that the suppliers would then pass on this surcharge to private households and companies in a third step.

Call for more relief packages

However, there is a “time lag”, as the federal government writes in the draft regulation: THE should pay billions to the importers, but will only gradually get the money back from the suppliers.

This creates a "short-term need for interim financing," according to the draft.

THE should borrow the money, but the federal government could, if necessary, “provide a guarantee for the necessary loans, for example”.

Depending on how much gas the importers have to buy and at what prices, "a liquidity requirement of up to 18 billion euros can currently be expected".

The VKU also warns of financial risks.

"It is still important for the public utility company that they are not burdened with high interim financing costs," says Managing Director Liebing.

"That could overwhelm their liquidity." In addition, the levy and further price increases would also overwhelm many end customers.

"Therefore, there must be no delay between the introduction of the surcharge and further relief packages for the citizens."

The background to the surcharge is that Russia has been supplying significantly less gas to Germany for several weeks.

Large importers such as Uniper from Düsseldorf only receive a small part of the quantities that they had agreed in advance with the Russian state monopoly Gazprom.

As a result, companies have to procure replacement quantities on the gas market in Europe so that they can meet their delivery obligations to municipal utilities or industrial companies.

In the past few weeks and months, however, gas prices in Europe have risen horrendously.

This is how importers like Uniper incur “considerable losses”, writes the federal government in its draft regulation, “which they can only cover for a limited time”.

The government wants to avoid importers going bankrupt, because then even less ordered gas would flow to Germany.


Source: spiegel

All business articles on 2022-08-04

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