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Factbox - Europe's efforts to shield households from energy cost spike

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By Reuters
Factbox - Europe's efforts to shield households from energy cost spike
Factbox - Europe's efforts to shield households from energy cost spike   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Susanna Twidale

LONDON – Measures to help shield consumers from record high wholesale energy prices amid high inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine look set to dominate an European Union summit later this week.[L3N2VL2CK]

Below outlines some of the policies Britain and European member states have already announced:

BRITAIN

Britain has a price cap on the most widely used household energy contracts but this is expected to rise by some 50% in April.

To limit the impact the government has announced a package of measures, including a 200 pounds ($263) discount on electricity bills for all households to be repaid over five years, and a 150 pound rebate on council tax bills for around 80% of households in England.

Energy poverty campaigners said with a further price cap rise expected in October the measures do not go far enough. They are calling on the government to do more in this week’s spring financial statement such as removing VAT – value added tax – from energy bills.

BULGARIA

Bulgaria has frozen regulated electricity and heating prices until the end of March to shield households.

EUROPEANCOMMISION

European Union countries are largely responsible for their national energy policies, and EU rules allow them to take emergency measures to protect consumers from higher costs.

The European Commission in October published a “toolbox” of measures EU members can use without breaching competition rules, including subsidies to help poorer households, funding for renovations that reduce energy use or exempting vulnerable households from higher energy taxes.

European leaders, meeting at an EU summit this week, are expected to discuss potential extra EU-wide measures, such as electricity or gas price caps being proposed by some countries.

FRANCE

France has committed to capping an increase on regulated electricity costs at 4%. To help do this the government has ordered utility EDF, which is 80% state owned, to sell more cheap nuclear power to rivals.

New measures announced since the Ukraine crisis – such as helping companies with the cost of higher gas and power bills – bringing the total cost of the government package to 25-26 billion euros ($28 billion) Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

DENMARK

Danish lawmakers have agreed a so-called “heat check,” which means subsidies worth 1 billion Danish crowns ($149 million) will be paid to some 320,000 of the hardest-hit households.

GERMANY

The government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz has approved tax relief measures totalling 4.5 billion euros this year, including an allowance for commuters, to help households with exploding energy prices.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner also wants to introduce a temporary rebate for petrol and diesel that would amount to 6.6 billion euros over three months. His plan is facing resistance from the environmentalist Greens reluctant to back state subsidies for fossil fuels.

GREECE

Greece has spent some 2.5 billion euros in power and gas bill subsidies since September and detailed additional aid of 1.1 billion euros last week, which includes a fuel rebate for low-income households.

ITALY

Italy last week approved a new package to help consumers and firms cope with surging energy costs.

The package, worth 4.4-billion euro, is the latest step to curb energy and fuel prices and comes on top of some 16 billion euros budgeted since last July to try and soften electricity and gas bills for firms and households.

POLAND

Poland has announced tax cuts on energy, petrol and basic food items, as well as cash handouts for households. It has also extended regulated gas prices for households and institutions like schools and hospitals until 2027.

NETHERLANDS

The Netherlands has cut energy taxes for its 8 million households.

NORWAY

Norway has been subsidising household electricity bills since December and currently covers 80% of the portion of power bills above a certain rate. Earlier in March, the minority government proposed to extend the scheme by one year to March 2023.

SPAIN

Spain cut several taxes to try to reduce consumer bills, originally planning to maintain the lower rates until the end of the year, but it decided in December to keep them lower until May 2022.. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said the EU must take concrete measures to curb energy prices no later than a March 24-25 summit and has pledged to approve a national rescue plan on March 29.

SWEDEN

Sweden will compensate households worst hit by the surge in electricity prices, with the government setting aside 6 billion Swedish crowns ($636 million) for the measures.

($1 = 0.7607 pounds)

($1 = 0.9046 euros)

($1 = 6.7292 Danish crowns)

($1 = 9.4330 Swedish crowns)

($1 = 0.9046 euros)