This study analyses electricity and natural gas price trends on the wholesale markets up to September 2021.  The study shows that prices are at historically high levels on all wholesale markets (futures and spot, gas and electricity). On the spot market for natural gas, the level is even well above the highest historical level that was reached in 2007-2008 before the financial crisis.

There are multiple causes for the current rise in electricity and natural gas prices.

On the natural gas market, the main factors behind the price increases are the growth in economic activity in China, the rise in the price of CO2 which increases the demand for gas for electricity production, storage levels below seasonal norms and a reduction in pipeline gas supplies (mainly from Russia, but also to a lesser extent from Norway). Over the medium term, certain structural factors could also continue to influence gas prices. Thus, the demand for natural gas may not diminish, and may even increase, in a context where European reserves are decreasing, making Europe more dependent on Russian natural gas exports and on LNG supplies.

On the electricity market, it is mainly the increases in the price of natural gas and coal that explain the current rise in prices and, to a lesser extent, the increase in the price of a tonne of CO2. However, the price of CO2 is still on an upward trend and will continue to be a structural factor in the rise of electricity prices over the medium term.

These price increases on the wholesale markets are not specific to Belgium; on the contrary, our European neighbours are also affected. However, they have different repercussions on the bills of final consumers from one country to another.

In Belgium, on the residential market, the impact is different depending on the contract that households have with their supplier. 68% of Belgian households have a fixed price contract for electricity and 64% for natural gas. The figures are of the same order of magnitude for business customers. Those who entered into a long-term fixed price contract before the second quarter of 2021 will not be impacted until their contract expires. For others, the increase is substantial. Based on the average prices in September 2021, and assuming that these remain unchanged in the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, the CREG has estimated that the impact would amount to €116 on the annual electricity bill (3,500 kWh/year) and €598 on the annual natural gas bill (for a consumption of 23,260 kWh/year). Based on futures prices for the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, these amounts could be even higher.

Due to the capping system, the beneficiaries of the social tariff are less affected by price increases. In September 2021, the social tariff allowed beneficiaries to pay 67% less for their natural gas than the average price offered to unprotected consumers, and remains below its pre-COVID-19 level. Similarly, in September 2021, the social tariff allowed beneficiaries to pay 29% less for their electricity than the average price offered to non-beneficiary consumers, but it has exceeded its pre-crisis level since the first quarter of 2021.

The study also examines the problems that suppliers are likely to face in the current context of rising prices on the energy markets. It also sets out a number of ways to improve competition between suppliers for the benefit of consumers.

Lastly, the study reviews the main measures implemented in European countries to deal with soaring prices. On this basis, but also on the basis of the main measures mentioned in Belgium, the study analyses various ways of protecting consumers, particularly the most vulnerable. It examines the main advantages and disadvantages of each one. The CREG also notes that some measures are more appropriate than others in responding to the problems faced by consumers. The CREG refers the reader to chapter 5 of the study for more information on this subject.

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Approbation date


Study (F)2289