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1 June 2014

Comparing electricity prices for industry

An elusive task - illustrated by the German case

Comparing Electricity Prices for Industry


The competitiveness of energy-intensive industries in Europe is a subject of heated debate among various stakeholders at present – not least because energy prices are perceived as being higher in European countries than in many other regions worldwide. This paper aims to shed light on the discussion, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

It starts with a comparison of wholesale spot electricity prices in different EU member states and selected US power markets, performing a first assessment of different industrial energy cost structures.

This comparison is particularly relevant for energy-intensive industries, which are typically exempt from various supplemental price components, like grid tariffs and renewable energy levies. The paper then discusses the methodological difficulties associated with comparing industrial end-use prices in different countries.

Case studies serve as illustrative examples.

Key findings

  1. Wholesale spot power prices are on the decline in many parts of Europe, and are lowest in Germany and Central Eastern Europe (especially in Poland and the Czech Republic). Meanwhile, prices have been rising in the US.

    Since 2011, spot prices have been decreasing in Europe, except for in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. While spot prices in Germany were higher than in the US during 2010-2012, in 2013 they fell below the New York ISO prices, and converged with those of other US regions. In many other European markets, the gap with US prices remains significant.

  2. Wholesale market prices can serve as a starting point for comparing the energy costs of European industries, especially energy-intensive industries. Nevertheless, this approach has inherent limitations:

    (1) Wholesale prices don’t necessarilyaccurately reflect the “energy component” of prices paid by end users, due to differences in purchasing strategies, longtermcontracts and potential price regulation; (2) Several additional components must be taken into account as well (gridtariffs, renewable levies and other taxes), from which industrial actors may receive partial or full exemptions.

  3. While numerous European companies have complained of market distortion due to regulatory favouritism for Germany’s energy-intensive industries,...

    ...caution must be exercised when attempting to directly compare industrial end-use pricesbetween countries and sectors. Against the backdrop of decreasing wholesale prices and increasing exemptionsfor energy-intensive consumers in Germany, several EU member states have argued that domestic regulations inGermany create market distortions that unduly favour German firms. Because firms in different regions and sectorsvary considerably in the extent to which they pay wholesale market prices and/or receive tax exemptions and levyreductions, comparing prices between sectors and countries is a difficult task. The heterogeneity of the situation is notfully and transparently captured by European statistics.

Bibliographical data

Dimitri Pescia, Christian Redl
Publication number
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Publication date

1 June 2014

Suggested Citation
Agora Energiewende 2014: Comparing Electricity Prices for Industry. An Elusive Task - Illustrated by the German Case.
This publication was produced within the framework of the project Comparing Electricity Prices for Industry.