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Europe failed to provide details on gas price cap

EU energy ministers fail to set cap on natural gas prices New emergency meeting in mid-December.

Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images

BRUSSELS — European energy ministers failed to reach an agreement on natural gas prices after “heated,” “ugly” and “difficult” discussions.

The 27 EU leaders agreed in late October to pledge their political support for a cap on natural gas prices after months and months of discussions on how to deal with the current energy crisis.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, and the bloc’s energy ministers were tasked with resolving their more specific, and practical, differences over the measure.

However, differences are so intense in Brussels this week that energy ministers have been unable to reach a deal and have instead called a new emergency meeting in mid-December.

“The tension was palpable,” an EU official who followed the discussions but preferred anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks told CNBC via telephone. The same official said that the talks were “very difficult” due to a “fictitious price range”.

In an effort to bring it all together, the European Commission proposed a cap of 275 euros per megawatt hour. The cap will also be triggered only if prices exceed the global LNG (liquefied natural gas) reference price by 58 euros ($60.46) for 10 consecutive trading days within a two-week period.

Greek Energy Minister: EU gas price cap at 275 Euro/MWh 'is not a price cap'

Countries wanting to implement the cap, notably Poland, Spain and Greece, say the proposal is not realistic because it is so high that it is unlikely to ever be triggered.

“The gas price cap in the document currently does not satisfy any single country. It is a kind of joke for us,” Poland’s Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said in Brussels on Thursday.

Other EU officials, speaking to CNBC on condition of anonymity, noted how “heated” the talks were. One of them even said that “at one point, it got really ugly.”

It shows how poorer and more indebted EU countries are about the energy crisis that has hit the region since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. With less financial scope to support domestic consumers, these countries need EU-wide measures to reduce energy costs at home.

“I hope we’ll be there next week,” another official told CNBC on condition of anonymity after the meeting.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Sikela also said: “We are not opening the champagne now, but are putting the bottle in the fridge.”

We don't have many months, Malta's energy minister says on gas price cap

Energy ministers are expected to meet again on 13 December, just before heads of state meet in Brussels for their final EU summit of the year. Until then, the commission’s proposal is likely to change in the hope of bringing everyone on board.

Front-month Title Transfer Facility (TTF) prices on the European benchmark closed on Thursday at around 129 euros per megawatt hour. They reached a historic peak of around 250 euros per megawatt hour in August.

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