Zakaj je cenovna kapica na plin politično neizvedljiva

Najprej kratko pojasnilo Liona Hirtha (Poslovna šola Hertie, Neon energy consulting), nato pa še politična realnost (Reuters). Če na kratko povzamem Hirtha: EU je razdeljena v dve skupini držav – prva (15 držav) še ima “proste uvozne kapacitete” (beri: proste plinovode ali LNG terminale), druga (predvsem srednjeevropskih 6 držav) pa ima že zasedene vse LNG kapacitete ali ne more dobiti več plina po plinovodih). Prve si želijo nižjih cen, druge pa višjih cen, ki bi znižale povpraševanje. Po uvedbi cenovne kapice prvim naj ne bi bilo treba uvajati redukcij plina (saj imajo še vedno proste kapacitete in lahko po potrebi tudi plačajo več), druge pa bodo ob uvedbi cenovne kapice zaradi zmanjšanja ponudbe morale uvesti redukcije plina.

Europe is divided on a gas price cap. Why?

I believe the answer not to lie in ideology (pro markets or not) but economic interests.

To understand why, we need to understand price formation on short-term spot markets and pricing rules in long-term contracts.

But first: what happened?

This week, 15 countries have suggested a wholesale cap on gas prices. Those are almost exclusively countries with spare import capacity. Spot prices here are essentially determined by world market prices for LNG. Let’s call that group “world market countries”.

The 15 countries are Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain.

The countries that oppose such a policy most are primarily from a region that cannot import more, because LNG terminals are running at full capacity. I call them “TTF countries”, because in that group prices spot prices converge at the TTF. Fig from Refinitiv Eikon, highlighting by Ingmar Schlecht

EU Gas flows

In world market countries, the LNG price sets the spot price. In TTF countries, the demand side set the price.

World market countries need a high price to attract LNG. If they cap the price so LNG cargoes turn around, I dare to predict they will quickly change their mind and offer LNG imports some additional payment. In contrast, TTF countries need a high price to reduce demand. If they cap the price, they will need to introduce rationing.

But there is another spin to this: long-term contracts

Many world market countries have signed long-term contracts that are pegged to the TTF. So despite have low spot prices, they pay the high TTF anyway for LTCs. Understandably, they are upset.

Hence their interest in capping the TTF price. They dismiss the prospect of rationing, because they are not the ones that will need to ration. In turn, TTF countries oppose the cap because they understand they will be ones ordering factories to shut down.

Finally, this is about bargaining power

When Europe introduces a price cap, markets will stop functioning and cross-border trade will cease. Governments will negotiate about gas allocation instead.

I guess world market countries anticipate they will end up with more gas. Probably they are right: in the end, they are the ones that have the LNG terminals. If worse comes to worst, there will be more turbines being stuck in maintenance such that pipelines can’t run at full capacity.

Bottom line: I don’t think this is a fight between those who believe in markets and those who don’t. It’s not North vs. South. It’s a fight between those that think they can get a better outcome at the negotiation table than on the market place. And those who pegged their LTCs to the TTF at times when price divergence seemed impossible.

Vir: Lion Hirth, Director of Neon, Prof. at Hertie School (via Linkedin)

Generalno pa uvedba cenovne kapice na plin pomeni manj plina za EU in da bi bi bilo potrebno uvesti EU kvote za razdelitev plina. Tukaj pa seveda pridejo v igro različne pozicije posameznih držav. Nemčija je z Avstrijo, Dansko in Nizozemsko v skupini držav, ki si zaradi velike odvisnosti od ruskega plina poskuša zagotoviti čim večje količine plina ne glede na ceno, s čimer na svetovnem trgu dviguje ceno vsem ostalim državam. Ob uvedbi cenovne kapice si Nemčija teh dodatnih količin plina ne bi mogla zagotoviti in se upravičeno boji, da bi bila v primeru skupnih EU kvot “prikrajšana” in bi morala uvesti redukcije plina. V tej politični tekmi med državami, ki predvsem želijo znižati cene plina, in državami, ki si želijo predvsem zagotoviti dovolj plina, bo seveda zmagala politična teža. In če je Nemčija v drugi skupini držav, je verjetnost uvedbe cenovne kapice na plin malo verjetna. Morda se države zedinijo na “koridor cen”, vendar to ne rešuje problema, ki bo nastal ob zmanjšanju efektivne ponudbe plina in težavah za Nemčijo. Spodaj je nekaj odlomkov iz Reutersa o razklanosti EU držav glede cenovne kapice.

Fifteen countries, including France, Italy and Poland, this week asked Brussels to propose a price cap on all wholesale gas transactions to contain inflation.

Italy’s energy minister said a group of countries would discuss among themselves next week ideas for a cap or “smart indexing” to help the Commission draft a legal proposal that all countries could support.

“The priority right now is to slash the price of gas. But there is a second priority: to avoid that this kind of action leads to a shortage of gas,” Roberto Cingolani said.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said he believed EU ministers could find a “better solution” to a broad price cap ahead of their next meeting on Oct. 11.

“A fixed price cap on gas can only work if we answer the question of what happens if not enough gas comes to Europe… The only answer I hear is that then the amount would be divided up. I do not think that is politically possible,” he said.

The Commission warned countries this week that a broad cap would require “significant financial resources” to finance emergency gas purchases should market prices break the EU’s cap.

Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands sided with Germany in opposing the idea, which they said could leave countries struggling to buy gas if they could not compete with buyers in price-competitive global markets.

Brussels suggested the EU could move ahead with a narrower price cap, for example by just capping Russian gas supplies, but countries including Belgium and Hungary were against. Another idea, akin to what Spain was already doing at home, was to target specifically gas used for power generation.

By introducing EU-wide measures Brussels hopes to overlay governments’ uneven national approaches to the energy crunch, which have seen richer EU countries far outspend poorer ones in handing out cash to ailing companies and consumers struggling with bills.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, set out a 200 billion euro package on Thursday to tackle soaring energy costs, including a gas price brake.

Claude Turmes, energy minister of Luxembourg, urged the EU to step in and stop an “insane” spending race between countries. “That’s the next frontier, to get more solidarity and to stop this infighting,” Turmes said.

Vir: Reuters

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