Belgian Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten warned that the next five to 10 winters in Europe will be “terrible” unless the European Union moves to swiftly impose a price cap on runaway gas prices.
“The next 5 to 10 winters will be terrible if nothing is done,” Van der Straeten said via Twitter on Sunday. “We must act at the source, at [the] European level, and work on freezing gas prices.”
Van der Straeten said a price cap could help to reduce energy bills by 770 euros ($771).
Her comments come amid growing calls for the 27-nation bloc to urgently combat skyrocketing energy bills for households and businesses.
Gas prices have soared to record highs in the wake of Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine, triggering an unprecedented barrage of punitive sanctions against the Kremlin. This has also increased electricity prices.
Gas is a major source of electricity generation.
Belgium’s Van der Straeten said the link between gas prices and electricity prices needed urgent reform.
“The European energy market is failing and urgently needs reform,” Van der Straeten said. “This is no longer tenable for many families and companies. Electricity is produced as cheaply as last year but sold at record prices. By reforming, we are tackling exuberant excess profits.”
She added, “The time for talking is over, now it is time to decide.”
‘Stop the madness’
European governments are currently scrambling to fill underground storage facilities with gas supplies in order to have enough fuel to keep homes warm during the coming months.
Russia — which supplied roughly 40% of the EU’s gas last year — has drastically reduced flows to Europe in recent weeks, citing faulty and delayed equipment.
Germany considers the supply cut to be a political maneuver designed to sow uncertainty across the EU and boost energy prices amid the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer backed calls for an EU-wide price cap on surging energy prices.
“We must finally stop the madness that is taking place in energy markets. And that can only happen through a European solution,” Nehammer said in a statement Sunday, according to Reuters.
“Something has to happen at last. This market will not regulate itself in its current form. I call on all the EU 27 [member states] to stand together to stop this price explosion immediately,” he added.