Energy prices: Gas customers are still not clear about the gas surcharge

Millions of gas customers are still not sure whether they have to pay the gas levy or not.

Energy prices: Gas customers are still not clear about the gas surcharge

Millions of gas customers are still not sure whether they have to pay the gas levy or not. Talks are underway within the federal government about a possible abolition of the levy. So far there is no agreement on this. The levy would mean significant price increases.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in Berlin on Wednesday that the situation on the German gas market has changed very permanently for the foreseeable future as a result of the stop in Russian gas deliveries and the "damage" to the Nord Stream pipeline. The federal government is therefore working flat out on an "overall solution".

The aim of this is to protect consumers and companies from the high gas prices, to stabilize the gas market and to ensure security of supply in Germany, according to Hebestreit. Talks between Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) are on the right track.

Contrary to plans, changes to the levy were not on the cabinet's agenda on Wednesday. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) originally wanted to exclude "free riders" from the gas levy - profitable companies that don't need any support. The Energy Security Act should be changed for this purpose.

How is an alternative to the surcharge financed?

More and more top politicians in the traffic light coalition had recently moved away from the gas levy. This should actually come into force at the beginning of October. Due to the lack of Russian gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, importers such as Uniper have to procure replacements at greatly increased prices, but have not yet been able to pass them on to customers. This is actually supposed to happen via the allocation.

The question now is how an alternative to the levy should be financed. It's about billions. Habeck had said that the surcharge served the purpose of stabilizing the gas market and thus the supply. "This need continues, because Uniper and Co. have to continue buying replacement gas." The levy purpose of stabilization can also be achieved by making the necessary capital requirements available to companies from public funds.

Union is critical

The Union accused the traffic light of chaos. "All traffic light parties have publicly canceled the gas levy, but nobody shows their colors," said the energy policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Andreas Jung. In the Bundestag's climate and energy committee, the traffic light factions of the SPD, Greens and FDP voted against a proposal by the Union to abolish the levy. This was confirmed in coalition circles. Jung: "In view of the price explosion, people must now know where they stand: additional burdens through surcharges or price reductions?"

The Green energy politician Lisa Badum said: "Anyone who wants to abolish the gas levy must provide answers as to how the many billions of euros to support the public utilities that depend on the gas importers should be financed. Here the chancellor and the responsible cabinet member must deliver."

The head of the FDP and finance minister Christian Lindner insists on compliance with the debt brake in the coming year when the federal government takes measures against the galloping energy prices. He had "a very precise idea" of the financial policy instruments, but said he wanted to discuss them within the federal government. "The goal is a debt brake for the federal budget and a gas price brake."

Associations want clarity

The energy association BDEW and the municipal utility association VKU called on the federal government to finally create clarity. "After the political rejection of the gas levy by all three coalition partners, there is only one solution," the associations said. "And a quick decision to ensure that the gas importers are provided with the necessary capital requirements from public funds." People, trade, commerce and industry as well as energy suppliers need to be able to plan.

According to the two associations, there are not only companies that raised their prices on October 1, but also those who are planning to do so on December 1. "Here there are lead times and deadlines to be observed. These companies are now preparing the price change letters, which have to be sent out by mid-October. It is irresponsible to have these companies now carry out price changes at great expense for a levy that no one really does anymore want."

Is there a gas price brake?

In addition to additional aid for companies, the negotiations within the government are also about a gas price brake. Consumers could get a certain amount of gas at a capped price. Gas prices have risen sharply as a result of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

The SPD in the Bundestag assumes that the proposed cap on gas prices will cost billions. "The volume we are talking about depends on many parameters," said the parliamentary manager of the SPD parliamentary group. "In the end I'm assuming a three-digit billion amount." This is expected to apply for a year.