Austria Announces Price Cap to Curb Rising Power Prices

Austria Announces Price Cap to Curb Rising Power Prices
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer addresses the media during a joint press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Vienna on July 28, 2022. (Theresa Wey/AP Photo)
The Associated Press

BERLIN—The Austrian government on Wednesday announced plans for a power price cap to curb the rise in energy costs tied to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer said the cap should ease costs for an average household of three by about 500 euros ($494) per year. The government will provide around 3–4 billion euros to finance the measure, which will come into effect in December and last through the end of June 2024.

“No one in Austria should be unable to afford their basic electricity needs,” the chancellor said in Vienna.

“This is about quick and unbureaucratic help, which is why no one needs to apply for it,” he added. “The electricity price cap is handled automatically for every household. It is another building block in the relief of people in a difficult time.”

Nehammer added that low-income households can apply for additional financial support.

The cost-relief plan comes at a time when Austria and other European countries are struggling to contain an energy crisis and rising prices as Russia has throttled back supplies of natural gas.

European officials have said it’s energy blackmail, aimed at pressuring and dividing the European Union as it supports Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

The 27-nation EU should set a price cap on Russian natural gas and pass other measures to ease the energy crisis, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

Individual governments across Europe have passed relief for households as high energy prices drive up utility bills and fuel inflation.

Austria’s government announced other financial aid earlier this year, including extra payments of child bonuses and financial aid for retirees on low pensions.

Guenther Hawelka, who runs the family-owned Cafe Hawelka in Vienna, said he had to respond to increasing costs by raising the price of coffee.

“We went up a little bit—we increased the price by 20 to 30 cents,“ he said. ”Thank God we are roasting our own coffee. That means we import the coffee from South America, from Latin America. That’s why we can say it’s not yet as grave here as compared to other places. We can make our own prices.”

Marcel Reiter, a university student from Vienna, said the growing cost of living “is going to be a challenge.”

“Of course everything is getting more expensive,” the economics student said. “But I think it’s doable.”

Fellow student Laura Illoldi said she wasn’t worried about the rising prices.

“I have a positive mindset. Of course the prices are going to go up a bit, that’s possible,” she said. “But I think it’s feasible—I’m not too worried.”