In the debate about a possible electricity price brake, Theodor Thanner, from Salzburg and former head of the federal competition advocates, calls for a well-known reform of the electricity market. Thanner speaks out against the current merit order principle, in which the most expensive power plant determines the electricity price.
The pure electricity price currently knows only one direction and it is going up steeply. The government has been discussing an electricity price brake for a long time. But according to the former head of the Federal Competition Authority, Theodor Thanner, there is no electricity market at all: “In the energy sector, we have at most very, very limited competition and therefore the market is not a real market.”
Across Europe, the price of electricity is currently calculated according to the merit order principle – the most expensive power plant sets the price. The gas power plants are the most expensive because of the Ukraine war. For the former competition watchdog, this is a classic cartel: “There is obviously no legal basis for the principle. But that also means that I can deviate from this principle. We only have to look at our neighboring country Switzerland – the principle is not applied there,” criticizes antitrust law expert Theodor Thanner.
Austria: Only 16 percent of electricity is produced from gas
In Switzerland, the electricity price IS calculated independently of the gas price. According to Thanner is a regulated market. Because competition only really takes place above a certain kilowatt limit,” says the competition watchdog. The price of electricity in Switzerland is made up of the costs of production and the market costs.
If the price of electricity in Europe were calculated according to the Swiss principle, it would be significantly cheaper, according to Thanner. The Swiss pricing model provides that the costs of generating the electricity are charged first and only then the expensive market prices. In Europe, electricity produced from gas has a share of around 18 percent. In Austria it is 14 percent.
Criticism: Gas price is pronounced for the entire electricity
The remaining more than 80 percent of the electricity comes from other sources. Currently, however, all electricity is sold at a price as if it had been produced with gas. The first lawsuits against energy suppliers such as Verbund have already been filed. But as long as the merit order principle is in place, according to antitrust law expert Thanner, consumers, business and industry will need a protective shield to get through the winter because of the increased energy costs.