European gas price cap may dampen price hopes

Article posted

19th Dec 2023

Read time

3-5 min read


Mollie Pinnington

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The European Union's recent decision to extend its emergency gas price cap for another year has sent ripples across the continent, and the UK is no exception. While headlines trumpeted victory for European households, the news casts a shadow of uncertainty over UK gas prices, hinting that the much-desired reprieve from sky-high bills may remain elusive.

The EU Cap and its Implications

In response to the energy crisis triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent gas supply disruptions, the EU implemented a temporary gas price cap in March 2023. This cap, originally set to expire in February 2024, has now been extended until January 2025. This means that if natural gas prices on the Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) gas hub, Europe's primary benchmark, exceed €180 per megawatt hour (MWh) for three consecutive days, trading will be restricted to €35/MWh above a reference price linked to global liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices.


Why Does This Matter for the UK?

The UK, though no longer part of the EU, remains intricately connected to the European gas market. Both share the same wholesale gas trading network and rely on similar sources of supply. This means that changes in European gas prices inevitably impact UK prices. While the UK has its own gas price cap, it tracks international gas prices, including those on the TTF hub.

Therefore, the EU's extended cap effectively puts a floor on global gas prices, impacting the prices the UK pays for its imports. While it won't directly dictate UK domestic prices, it will likely limit their downward potential. Even if European gas prices stay below the cap trigger, the overall market environment and supply dynamics will remain influenced by the cap's presence.


What Can We Expect?

While the exact impact on UK gas prices is difficult to predict, experts cautiously suggest that the EU cap extension could dampen hopes for significant price drops in the near future. While extreme price spikes like those witnessed in 2022 are less likely, a sustained period of lower gas prices may be a long way off.

This leaves UK consumers grappling with the prospect of continued financial strain. The current UK energy price cap, set to expire in April 2024, offers some temporary relief, but its future trajectory remains uncertain. Government support measures, like the upcoming £400 rebate for winter electricity bills, provide much-needed assistance, but the long-term solution lies in securing alternative energy sources and enhancing domestic energy production.

The EU's extended gas price cap is a double-edged sword. While it protects European consumers from price shocks, it could indirectly keep UK gas prices elevated. As we navigate the complexities of the global gas market, continued government support and a focus on long-term energy security remain crucial in shielding UK households from the biting winds of energy inflation.

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