EU calls for relief funds to protect consumers affected by the energy crisis
In the last month, energy prices have soared by 17.4%, pushing inflation up to the highest seen in Europe for 13 years. This could cause major problems for many citizens, especially those already affected by energy poverty and struggling to pay bills.
Because of this, the European Union has urged all its member states to provide relief funds to consumers affected by rising gas and electricity prices this winter.
This follows calls in the last few days from France and Spain for the EU’s rules to change so consumers and businesses are protected from price surges in the energy markets at a time when many are already struggling with high utility bills.
The EU currently imports around 90% of its natural gas. This means EU citizens have been hit hard by the pandemic and rising gas prices around the world.
According to EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, “targeted support” should be provided to those most in need. This should include the most vulnerable people in society, like the elderly, disabled, and those on the lowest incomes
It should also include small and medium-sized businesses that have been hardest hit by the pandemic and social restrictions over the last year.
In a statement to the European Parliament earlier in the week, Kadri Simson also said, “Direct payments to those most at risk of energy poverty, cutting energy taxes, shifting charges to general taxation, are all measures that can be taken very swiftly under EU rules.”
“The immediate priority should be to mitigate social impacts and protect vulnerable households, ensuring that energy poverty is not aggravated.”
As well as changes to energy taxes and other taxes, it’s also been suggested that some European businesses could get relief through “state aid or by facilitating longer-term power purchase agreements”.
EU Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans added that “The quicker we increase our renewable energy sources, the quicker we can protect our citizens against price hikes in the traditional energy area.”