EU countries to consider lower gas price cap - documents
BRUSSELS, Dec 2 (Reuters) - European Union countries will consider on Friday a proposal for a gas price cap slightly lower than a Brussels proposal that some view as too high, with a handful of countries pushing for an even lower limit, documents seen by Reuters showed.
European Union countries start negotiations on Friday evening on the European Commission's proposal for a cap to limit gas price spikes, and are racing to reach a deal by Dec. 13.
The Commission last week proposed a gas price cap that would kick in if the front-month Title Transfer Facility (TTF) gas price exceeded 275 euros ($289) per megawatt-hour for two weeks and was 58 euros higher than a liquefied natural gas reference price for 10 days.
Some countries criticised the original EU proposal, including suggestions it was designed with such a high price and with criteria so strict that the cap would never be triggered, and thus fail to cushion their economies from price spikes.
On Friday, countries will consider a revised proposal by the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, which would lower the limit to 264 euros/MWh and require prices to remain above that level for five trading days, instead of two weeks, to trigger the cap.
The revised proposal, seen by Reuters, would also extend the cap to cover not only the front-month gas contract, as the Commission proposed, but contracts with expiry dates as far forward as a quarter-year.
But countries still disagree on whether to cap prices at all, while at least five countries are pushing for an even lower cap.
In a document shared with other EU member states this week, Italy, Poland, Greece, Belgium and Slovenia proposed two options: either a far lower fixed price cap of 160 euros/MWh, or a "dynamic price cap" that could fluctuate in response to existing liquefied natural gas price benchmarks.
A handful of countries including Germany and the Netherlands, however, warn that capping prices could make it harder for Europe to attract much-needed gas supplies from global markets.
EU gas prices have soared this year as Russia slashed gas deliveries to Europe following its invasion of Ukraine, prompting governments to spend hundreds of billions of euros to cushion their economies from the surge in energy costs.
But while EU countries have already agreed a raft of emergency energy measures, including requirements to fill gas storage to prepare for winter, diplomats expected tough negotiations on the price cap and some were doubtful a deal could be struck in time for a Dec. 13 meeting when EU countries' energy ministers aim to approve it. ($1 = 0.9510 euros) (Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Edmund Klamann)