The price for natural gas in Europe has risen further, as Russia continues to restrict the export of the fuel and the hot weather requires a lot of energy for cooling. A megawatt hour of gas cost €241 at the close of trading on the leading exchange in Amsterdam. That is the highest closing price ever and almost 11 times the normal level at this time of year.
Russia no longer supplies gas at all to some European countries, such as the Netherlands, Finland, Bulgaria and Poland. Other countries, including major consumer Germany, have to make do with much less Russian gas than usual. Although Russia cites technical reasons, Germans say it is a political means of pressure to weaken European sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
Low water levels
The energy crisis is made more difficult by the low water levels in the Rhine. Inland vessels can therefore carry less cargo, while they are important for the transport of fuels from the ports of Rotterdam or Antwerp to the European hinterland.
On March 7, the price for gas on the Amsterdam stock exchange briefly rose to a historic peak of €345 per kilowatt hour, but that same day the price dropped to €227 at the close of trading.
Member States of the European Union aim to have their gas storage facilities filled to at least 80% before the winter starts. If Russia continues to limit or even cut back its gas supply, countries will have to draw on those supplies quickly.
The head of the German energy supply regulator, Klaus Mueller, therefore warned in an interview with t-online about persistently high gas prices. The reserves must then be replenished again. “It is important that everyone realizes: it is not just one winter, but at least two,” he told the news website. “Next winter may be even more difficult.”
Meanwhile, industrial companies that consume a lot of gas are having a hard time. The Belgian zinc smelter Nyrstar has recently closed its factory in Budel, Noord-Brabant, due to high energy costs. According to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, Dutch industry consumed more than 40% less gas last week than in 2019, the last year before the corona pandemic.