An EU Energy Council decision to restrict the price of derivatives on the gas market is unlikely to have an immediate impact on energy prices for consumers in Ireland, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has said.
Speaking after attending the meeting at which European Union energy ministers agreed a gas price cap, Mr Ryan said the mechanism would help to avoid price spikes in the wholesale gas market.
EU energy ministers overcame months of fraught negotiations to agree a price cap for natural gas in the bloc of €180 per megawatt hour, effective from mid-February.
The agreement, set out in a European Council statement, unlocks other pre-agreed measures to mitigate an energy crunch Europe is facing as a consequence of Russia's war in Ukraine.
They include joint gas purchases, a future new benchmark for pricing gas, and speedier authorisations for renewable energy sources.
It took four months for the 27 EU member states to overcome divisions on the issue.
One camp wanted to urgently bring down gas prices sent soaring by Russia's war in Ukraine by limiting how high the price for gas used in electricity generation could go.
The other, led by Germany, was concerned that a too-easily-triggered price cap that could scare off liquified natural gas (LNG) supplies to more lucrative markets in Asia.
In the end, Germany voted in favour of the €180 price cap, which was sharply lower than a €275 limit initially proposed by the European Commission.
Tough conditions the commission had suggested for triggering the price cap were significantly eased, but strings were still attached.
The EU document said the price cap regime, in force from 15February, would require the €180 limit to be breached for three consecutive days, instead of the two-week period initially suggested by the commission.
It would also require the month-ahead price for gas in Europe to be at least €35 more than that paid for LNG on global markets.
Europe's benchmark price for natural gas delivered via pipeline was trading at just under €112 per megawatt hour this afternoon. It briefly soared to nearly €340 per megawatt hour over the summer.
"We have managed to reach a very important agreement on the price ceiling for gas," said Czech Industry Minister Jozef Sikela, who chaired the meeting under his country's EU presidency.
"Europe will thus have a package of measures to help it prepare for next winter and protect citizens and businesses from extreme price volatility."
Mr Ryan said it was good that Europe had not divided on the issue, reiterating that is vital that Europe remains united in the face of energy being used as a weapon of war.
He pointed out that Ireland is not connected to the continental market and gets 75% of its gas from the UK.