Immediate measures are urgent, but the energy market must be fundamentally changed!

PR energy

Press release

(Brussels, Friday 9 September 2022)

Ahead of the extraordinary Council of EU Energy Ministers on 9 September 2022 to discuss emergency measures to mitigate the currently exploding energy prices, the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) reiterates the need for an urgent and immediate price cap on electricity and gas prices. We fully support the demands of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) for a cap on the cost of energy bills for people and a tax on excess profits being made by energy companies to be redistributed to vulnerable consumers in real need.

Exploding energy prices are driving up inflation and eating away at workers’ wages. At the same time, pay increases are remaining well below inflation levels. We remind the Council of Ministers, as well as the European Commission, that the right to energy is engrained in the European Pillar of Social Rights. We need urgent measures to tackle the current needs of workers and all people in distress. Any reform of the electricity market must provide for a right to energy for all. Energy price caps, a ban on disconnections and massive public investment in the renovation of housing are central pillars in this endeavour. At the same time, we must maintain our focus on the way towards carbon neutrality by 2050.

The current energy crisis is aggravated by the flawed neo-liberal policies of creating markets and liberalising the electricity and gas sectors. While millions struggle to pay, CEOs and shareholders of energy companies are enjoying record profits at their expense. Prior to the war in Ukraine, long-term forecasts had shown that the rapid increase of energy prices was not simply a hiccup of the market. Rather, these prices are signals of deeper problems linked to our energy policy in Europe - like liberalisation, austerity and restriction of state control.

In 1999 EPSU published a report warning about the dangers of energy liberalisation (market failure, lack of democracy, corporate capture), followed by a report in 2014 taking stock of the failures of the market to provide decarbonised, affordable energy for all. Since then, we have warned of the rising levels of energy poverty. The situation is critical. We need action now.

In the last months we have witnessed individual action by Member States, as seen in Spain and Portugal where reform of energy market brought lower bills, or Italy and Greece that have imposed taxes on windfall profits. In France, a now 100% state owned electricity company is instrumental in lowering bills and taming inflation. Ultimately, public companies with a mandate to act in the public interest are needed – better for users, workers and the planet.

We expect the Council to move on radical reform of the energy markets. They must allow for public service solutions to cap energy prices, continue investment in both renewables and energy efficiency and provide support for those having trouble to pay their bills.

ENDS

For more information please contact Pablo Sanchez at psanchez@espu.org or 0032 (0) 47462663