Energy prices are rising and this has huge implications for households. This price rise has multiple reasons: in the short term supplies of electricity are going down, while the rapid post-COVID recovery of our economies is driving up demand. There is reason to believe that speculation plays a role, with some companies from third countries throttling European supplies by diverting them to other markets or filling up their storages, driving prices up even further. But most importantly, we should not talk so much about why we’re in this situation. We should be talking about fixing the problem.
Some critics also blame the climate protection measures. I can understand why, but here too there is no simple answer. The energy transition can only work if sufficient alternatives are available. Producing energy by burning coal has a price in terms of having to buy CO2 emission rights, making this form of electricity production relatively expensive. That means that our climate protection measures are working because it forces electricity producers to look at cheaper alternatives. However, if these alternatives are not available, prices go up and consumers suffer. What we should do is to ensure that the alternatives are available. For that, we need investments in the necessary infrastructure for tackling the social component of this issue, which should not be underestimated. There are already significant groups of people who cannot afford to heat their house or who live on the countryside and are dependent on their second – or third – hand Euro4 diesel cars to get to work.
Now, if that becomes too expensive, we will live in a society split between those who are able to pay for increased electricity prices and those who are not. That is not the kind of society that we, christian democrats in the EPP Group, want. These social impacts should be addressed on both the national level as well as on the European level. On the European level, it means making sure that the Social Climate Fund is not just given to Member States, but which actually makes sure that it reaches the people in every Member State which are most in need. It also means that we have to coordinate national measures that are being taken to address the high energy prices. If we fail to do so, it might mean that a measure taken in one Member State to alleviate the pain of the high prices for the lowest income groups is actually counterproductive in another Member State. Or it interferes with the functioning of the market, which may drive prices up even further. It’s important that national and EU measures complement each other. For the EPP, the energy transition is about leaving nobody behind.
We can and will not accept a society that is split into two groups. We should focus on those who have the smallest purse and help them in order to let them take part in the transition too. Therefore, I have submitted written questions about energy poverty to the European Commission together with my EPP Group colleagues Jessica Polfjärd, Markus Pieper, Marian Marinescu and Suncana Glavak.