Since its outbreak seven months ago, the energy crisis, adding to the economic hardship prompted by the pandemic, has now been pushed to even further extremes by Russia’s war on Ukraine, as higher energy prices over the long term appear likely.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine – following months of increasing gas prices paid by European consumers for Russian gas supplied by Gazprom – is driving energy prices even higher and, by extension, generating further inflationary pressure to limit the purchasing power of Europeans, a catalyst for social unrest.
Under the current market conditions, energy debt will surely rise around Europe, including Greece, as consumers struggle to meet extremely higher energy costs. Also, many energy companies will struggle to stay in business.
Social unrest and a new round of Euroscepticism can be expected once consumers fully realize that higher energy costs are not just ephemeral.
Just one year ago, wholesale electricity prices in Europe averaged between 50 and 60 euros per MWh. In Greece, annual electricity consumption totaling 50 to 55 TWh was worth approximately 3 billion euros.
Yesterday, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, natural gas prices climbed as high as 144 euros per MWh, before settling at 120 euros per MWh. Natural gas prices of such levels result in wholesale electricity prices of between 250 and 300 euros per MWh, roughly five times higher than a year ago.
Should such price levels remain, Greece’s annual electricity cost of 3 billion euros, until the start of 2021, will become a sweet memory of the past. The country’s additional electricity cost could end up being worth as much as 11 billion euros, if wholesale electricity prices remain at levels of between 200 and 250 euros per MWh.
Factoring in the additional money needed by consumers for heating costs – petrol and natural gas – only exacerbates the problem.