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ENERGY

Could the Norwegian government introduce a cap on energy prices? 

Due to soaring prices, the Norwegian government is mulling over several solutions, including a potential price cap for electricity and limiting energy exports abroad. 

Pictured are powerlines in Norway.
Norway's governemnt has said it is looking at measures to curb energy bills. Pictured are powerlines in Norway. Photo by Fré Sonneveld on Unsplash

High energy exports in the last 12 months, low filling levels in Norwegian reservoirs and an uncertain energy situation around Europe have led to soaring electricity prices in southern Norway. 

Last year the government introduced a scheme whereby it covers 80 percent of consumers’ energy bills where the price rose above 70 øre/kWh. The portion of the bill under 70 øre is paid in full by households. The portion the government covers will increase to 90 percent in October. 

Critics have argued that the current scheme still leaves households struggling with their bills. As a result, Norway’s government has said it is mulling its options to curb energy bills.

Norway primarily depends on hydroelectric dams to help it meet its energy needs. Still, reservoirs in southern Norway have been at the lowest level for ten years, public broadcaster NRK reports. 

Low reservoir filling over the past year has conceded with record exports with higher prices on the continent, making sending power abroad an enticing proposition.

Recently, exports have fallen significantly, and the government is considering introducing a limit to reduce the possibility of energy rationing being introduced this winter. 

“Restrictions on the export of electricity to Europe may be one of the measures that is needed,” Elisabeth Sæther, state secretary at the Ministry of Oil and Energy, told NRK. 

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre ruled out completely shutting off exports to the continent. 

“It is a dangerous thought and will not serve us well. It could give us more expensive power and lack of power in given situations. We will hardly be able to import power when we need it without contributing to other countries when they need it. There is a reciprocity in this,” he told the newspaper Aftenposten earlier in the week. 

Sæther also told NRK that the government was weighing up putting a maximum price on energy but warned that it could have unforeseen consequences. 

“We are afraid that a maximum price means that more water is drawn into the reservoirs, which we need for the winter. It is a serious situation. We must prevent ourselves from getting into a situation where we lack enough power this winter,” she told the broadcaster. 

At the end of May, the state-owned Statnett announced that the supply situation in Norway might be under strain – in some scenarios – all the way up to and through the winter, especially if Southern Norway experiences drier than usual weather in the second part of the year. 

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ENERGY

Norwegian PM ‘sceptical’ on gas price cap

Norway, which has replaced Russia as Europe's leading supplier of natural gas, said Monday it was 'sceptical' about a gas price cap proposed by a majority of EU members.

Norwegian PM 'sceptical' on gas price cap

“We approach discussions in an open spirit, but we are sceptical of a maximum gas price”, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a statement following a phone call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“A maximum price does not change the fundamental issue that there is a gas shortage in Europe”, he said.

European energy ministers who met Friday in Brussels said they were in favour of a series of measures aimed at combatting soaring gas and electricity prices, with some calling for a cap on the price of gas imports in the EU.

While the European Commission has proposed a price ceiling on gas imported from Russia, several member states, including Italy, called for a price ceiling on all gas bought by EU states, including liquified natural gas (LNG).

Non-EU member Norway, which has benefitted from soaring prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has until now kept a low profile on the issue, preferring instead to leave it up to oil and gas companies to negotiate their own contracts.

The Scandinavian country recently replaced Russia as Europe’s leading gas supplier, due to plunging Russian deliveries and an eight percent increase of its own deliveries.

Last week, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told the Financial Times that the country would potentially be open to a price cap and long-term gas agreement to help its European partners.

“I fully understand that Europe now has a profound debate about how energy markets work, how they can secure more affordable prices for citizens, families, industries, and how this shortfall of gas after Putin’s aggression can be handled,” Prime Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre, told the newspaper.

“Norway is not closing doors to any such discussion,” he added.

However, this weekend he reiterated that it is not the Norwegian government that can directly offer Europe a capped price on gas. He has also moved to clarify that he is open to assessing all the solutions that the EU puts forward, not just price caps and price agreements.

“I tell my European colleagues that it is not me who sells the gas. Licenses are given to companies that pay a high tax, and then they are the ones who sell it,” he told Norwegian newspaper VG this weekend.

READ MORE: What is Norway doing to help ease the European energy crisis?

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