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Austria Backs EU Cap to End 'Madness' of Runaway Power Prices

FILE - Power-generating windmill turbines are seen during the sunset at a wind park near Moenchhof, Austria, May 2, 2019.
FILE - Power-generating windmill turbines are seen during the sunset at a wind park near Moenchhof, Austria, May 2, 2019.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer backs a European Union-wide cap on runaway electricity prices, he said in a statement issued by his office Sunday.

Austria's conservative-led government was initially skeptical at the idea of capping power prices, but it has warmed to the idea as they have continued to rise in line with soaring gas prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We must finally stop the madness that is taking place in energy markets. And that can only happen through a European solution," the statement quoted Nehammer as saying, adding that he would seek to convince holdouts in the bloc.

"Something has to happen at last. This market will not regulate itself in its current form. I call on all the EU 27 (member states) to stand together to stop this price explosion immediately."

Austria is heavily dependent on Russian gas particularly in industry and heating, obtaining about 80% of its supply from Russia before the war. Most of its electricity, however, comes from renewables and there is growing incomprehension among the Austrian public at the market system where gas and power prices are closely linked.

The market price for electricity must come back down and must be decoupled from gas to bring it closer to actual production costs, Nehammer said.

"We cannot let (Russian President Vladimir) Putin determine the European electricity price every day," he added.

The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, will propose an extraordinary meeting of the EU Energy Council as soon as possible to deal with soaring energy prices, Czech government officials said Friday as they seek to build European support for energy price caps.

The statement by Nehammer's office said he would push for a sustainable model that can be implemented quickly, without elaborating. It added that he had discussed the issue with his Czech and German counterparts.

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