Teresa Ribera: “In the EU they are going to take a closer look at our proposal to reduce electricity: if it works, other countries will consider it”

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Teresa Ribera: "In the EU they are going to take a closer look at our proposal to reduce electricity: if it works, other countries will consider it" Listen to this article

Teresa Ribera after the interview.
Teresa Ribera, after the interview.Samuel Sanchez

If the popularization of technology is the best example of the depth of a crisis, it is an example of the category. The risk premium that was in all sauce and conversation a decade ago is the euro per megawatt today. With households paying more than ever for electricity and inflation through the roof, Teresa Ribera (Madrid, 52 years old), third vice president and minister for ecological transition, receives EL PAÍS in one of the great rooms of the ministerial headquarters . With questionable Asian motifs and incomparable views of the capital’s financial center.

A tired face after several hot weeks on the road and in the office, a hint of optimism is felt in his commotion and in his tone: to gain certain acceptance of Brussels, the natural gas price cap that will generate electricity promises. Used for halving 40% of consumers’ bills. A glimmer of hope, after nine months of turmoil in the energy markets, was fueled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In long hours of talks, Ribeira relied on European acceptance of this unprecedented cap on gas – “has political support and a clear orientation” – which he expects to be activated before May 1. A double look at Spain and Portugal: about the European Commission and other EU member states that may be inclined to follow their path if a solution is worked out. He insisted that the measure would not cost a euro of public money. He calls on big power companies to try – “I have remembered more committed behaviors: they know their business will continue to grow yes or yes as the economy continues to electrify” –. And it takes Algeria’s gas supply lightly.

Ask. Accepted measures are largely palliative. Is it about buying time to bridge the crisis?

answer. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shaken the foundations of energy policy since the Industrial Revolution and confirms that we need to rapidly change our system for both environmental and rational reasons. The vulnerability is great with respect to some providers, but we have solutions in place to avoid it. We have to change our energy matrix, look for resources nearby and use energy wisely. Giving impetus to all that leads us to a different life.

P. Are we at war and have to adapt?

He knows all the sides of the coin deeply.

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R. We are at war, and it has economic and social consequences. The desire of the government is to reduce them to the maximum, but we should all give a hand according to different capacities. There are other countries that initiate direct calls for citizens to use public transport, to save on heating… simple things that don’t require much effort, but do require awareness.

P. Should we get used to the high energy prices?

R. Our obligation as a government is to be ready to help those who have less margin to face this situation. More and more middle classes are being affected: they are no longer just low-income people.

P. When will the gas cap appear on the electricity bill?

R. a day after it was published in state official newspaper,

P. May on the bill?

R. We estimate that the Commission needs three or four weeks to take a decision.

P. How much will the light fall by that measurement?

R. It will drop significantly. Even if it is not as low as we would like, there will be a significant drop from the current prices. On what does it depend? The exact terms that are authorized by the commission and how the price of gas continues to evolve. Because we will not stop paying for it: it will only be that the electricity produced by all technologies will not be paid for at that price.

P. So are you committed that from May 1 this shortfall will be visible?

R. I won’t fall into the trap of committing myself to something that doesn’t depend exclusively on me and my team. A good part depends on the commission. I am optimistic: I believe there is political support and clear guidance.

P. Is that trust enough, very important or complete?

R. What is very important is my belief about the possibility that it will be activated before the end of the month.

Vice President and Minister of Ecological Transition during the interaction.
Vice President and Minister of Ecological Transition during the interaction.Samuel Sanchez

P. Will it make Brussels happy?

R. I am convinced. We’ll figure out how to properly resolve the issues causing the discrepancies.

P. So don’t expect too much tweaking.

R. We have been working with them for a long time. We understand your concerns, which are otherwise justified.

P. which ones?

R. Inertia is a terrible law of physics.

P. What requirements should you meet?

R. It is important that it can last over time. And that means it cannot be financed from the budget or from future debt of the system. It should be self financed.

P. Can you serve as an example to others?

R. I think they are going to look at us with a magnifying glass in the rest of the EU.

P. In a negative or positive sense?

R. In both. With caution, because clearly this is a sector that is also highly financed and anyone who has triggered their return expectations given the development of gas prices will not be very happy. But I also think that if it works, other member states will consider it.

P. It guarantees, then, that the measure will not lead to a greater public deficit…

R. this will not happen.

P. Now there will be no rent loss.

R. That’s it.

P. And for consumers?

R. It will represent net profit in yes or no yes.

P. Sure?

R. Yes, of course because we’re 230 or 240. had gone from [euros por megavatio hora] I don’t know if it is 100, 110, 130 or 140, depending on the day, hour, gas price at all times and how the system was configured. But this means a very important drawback. Our historical reference to what was unbearable was 180 euros. No one ever thought it would come to that and it happened.

P. Where is the limit of what is tolerable today?

R. Let’s not forget the human factor. With those 180 euros that seemed unbearable to us three years ago, we would have been very happy in the last two months. It is irresponsible not to interfere with market regulations that are completely distorted and do not respond to anything, as there is only one factor that changes its operation: gas.

P. In many countries, the population is beginning to be warned of possible supply cuts. Can this happen in Spain?

R. We don’t think so We are not in that position: we have a very strong system with a very diverse supply. France, for example, has a serious problem with its nuclear park and low access to renewable energy. We have more limited exposure. We will not have problem of gas, electricity, petrol or diesel supply.

P. The linear drop of 20 cents in fuel is highly regressive: a high-end SUV benefits just as much as a utility vehicle.

R. It is true that not all populations need the same type of support and, therefore, the norm would have been able to identify which groups it is intended for. But we have had to make a decision that will allow for quick, immediate execution. Over time, obviously, we should move towards a very different mobility model, especially one with less weight in a fossil fuel car. And, where appropriate, if accompanying measures are needed, these will be more tailored to the population groups that need it.

P. The tax on fuel has not been reduced, is it because it would be too difficult to reverse the measure once prices return to normal?

R. There are many reasons. There are components in fuel taxation which are not untouchable. Intended to help with the consumption of something that is essential to the day-to-day lives of families, but not to imply that would change the tax system. The three key keys to the ecological transition continue to be savings and efficiency; electrification; and renewables, which are a quality and sustainable energy solution that does not emit CO2 and that provides price stability.

P. Is there no margin to reduce taxes so that PP votes in favour?

R. Long distorted, interesting and not very creative read. We lower taxes on electricity and they don’t vote in favour; He asked for the tax he created to be abolished and he did not vote in favor of it. It has been a constant. I am sure you will support these initiatives, as they are associated with the Conference of Presidents. If there is a real desire to build, it is shown on a day-to-day basis.

P. If Paris deserves a mass, isn’t bringing a plan with broad consensus worth some sacrifice and contradiction on the part of the government to win over PP?

R. Clearly and with personal conviction: I think the package is by far the most comprehensive package that has been approved. There will be broad consensus on this. And for anyone who has missed out, it’s going to have a very hard time explaining why. You cannot make everything permanent.

P. This package has come after widespread protests. Is the government losing the pulse of the street?

R. Absolutely not. The government feels that this is a very sensitive moment for all citizens. We come from a series of crises that were never imagined and we have tried to manage and respond to the pulse of the road as best we can. It is normal that it creates great anxiety, great worry and great uncertainty about the future.

P. How to speed up interrelationships with the rest of Europe?

R. Spain is committed to a Europe that hoards its infrastructure, and has defended a great relationship with France: you just have to use the newspaper library. This was rejected because the Commission’s cost-benefit analysis stated that this was not possible. Now he says: Oh, if he had already…! But no one thought that we would have to cut off Russian supplies. Now, if security of supply prevails: why should the Spanish consumer pay for it, which already finances its security of supply with six regasification plants? Let’s put European money. And the Commission prepares and understands it.

P. Is the Algerian gas supply guaranteed?

R. I think so. They are still in the process of negotiating prices with Spanish buyers and I hope to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Relations are fluid and this is a reliable, serious country with which we should have traditionally and essentially excellent friendships.

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