The ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as a fifth round of EU sanctions against invading Russia, have prompted further energy-shortage fears that could drive natural gas and electricity prices even higher.
A growing number of consumers struggling to cover energy bills are resorting to installment-based payment arrangements, up 60 to 70 percent since the beginning of the year.
One major energy supplier received some 6,000 applications for installment-based payments in March, up from 4,500 in February.
Though the EU has found consensus on imposing sanctions against Russia, it has struggled to reach agreement on support measures for consumers and enterprises. A gap between the EU’s north and south continues to exist, each member state more or less left to seek solutions alone.
None of the south’s proposals, intended to ease the effects of the energy crisis, including a price ceiling on natural gas, and a detachment of gas prices from electricity prices, have yet to be adopted. Instead, decisions have been postponed until May. Decisions could ultimately be shaped by the degree of pressure felt by the north.
The EU’s fifth round of sanctions on Russia, announced yesterday, include a ban on coal imports from Russia, worth four billion euros annually; a total ban of banking transactions with four main Russian banks; as well as export bans for products required by Russia, such as semiconductors. The USA has also increased its pressure on Russia.
Wholesale electricity prices in Greece may be 30 percent lower than a peak of 427 euros per MWh registered in early March, but levels of between 280 and 330 euros per MWh registered in recent days are equivalent to those of November and December.
Even if the war were to end now, the good scenario for energy prices would still be bad. Natural gas prices would remain at levels of between 50 and 60 euros per MWh throughout 2022, compared to yesterday’s level of 106 euros per MWh, for a wholesale electricity price of 160 euros per MWh, up 160 percent compared to last year and 130 percent over 2019 levels.
As for the worst-case scenario, maintenance of natural gas price levels at the present level of 100 euros per MWh would result in wholesale electricity prices of 255 euros per MWh, meaning between 130 and 150 euros in monthly electricity bills for average households, not including subsidies.