Spain Reels Amid Spot LNG Surge

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Record-high gas and power prices are prompting a number of Spanish politicians to call for the establishment of a public utility to help drive down household bills, leaving puzzled observers asking how that would help.

Spain, an importer and re-exporter of LNG, has been badly affected by the energy crisis roiling Europe.

Spain is the sixth-largest LNG importer in the world, and the No. 1 LNG importer in Europe, with over 12 million tons of LNG imports year-to-date, according to Refinitiv data, The country has the continent's largest LNG storage capacity, as well as six LNG import terminals.

Lower LNG supply into Europe, coupled with uncertainty over piped gas imports from Algeria, are having a big impact in Spain. At the same time, Spanish electricity prices are among the highest in Europe, with power tariffs for about a third of households linked to soaring spot prices.

The energy crisis has dominated the political agenda for months, triggering the calls for a state-owned electricity company.


The calls have been led by the far-left Unidas Podemos party, the minority partner in the left-wing government. In early September, it submitted a bill to parliament on setting up a state firm that it says would promote the energy transition, help fight climate change and lower electricity bills. It claimed the company would end the domination of the Spanish power market by "the private oligopoly" formed by Iberdrola, Naturgy, Endesa and EDP.

Gabriel Rufian, a member of the pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia party, ERC, is also urging state intervention to lower electricity prices.

Rufian and other Spanish politicians point to Endesa's Italian owner Enel and France's Engie as examples. Both are partly owned by their governments, and the politicians argue that the establishment of a similar entity in Spain would allow Madrid to cap prices, keeping consumer bills at a reasonable level even when wholesale prices rocket, as they have this year.

But electricity prices in both France and Italy have generally been in line with Spanish prices in recent months. Observers say this suggests that neither Enel nor Engie can overcome international market forces.

"A public electricity company will have the same problems as [private] companies," a Spanish trade source says. "They are exposed to the volatility of commodity prices on the international market. We are going to see more and more volatility between hours in which renewables production is high, versus hours with little renewable and hydro, in which the price is set by the price of marginal fuel" like natural gas.


The Spanish government last month moved to cap the profits that energy companies generating power from hydro and other renewables can make from surging gas and electricity prices. The windfall tax will be reviewed in March and the extra money will be used to cut household bills.

In a separate law this month, the government approved a winter plan requiring LNG shippers to hold reserves of up to 5½ days’ worth of contracted capacity, up from 3½ days previously.

Madrid has also called for broader EU measures to tackle volatile prices, such as joint gas purchases and removing gas from the marginal pricing system while prices remain exceptionally high.

Gas Demand, LNG Demand, Policy and Regulation, Gas Prices, LNG Prices
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