800,000 German Households Can No Longer Pay Their Energy Bills

  • Date: 15/10/12
  • Focus Magazin

Germany’s consumers are facing record price rises for green energy. Social campaigners and consumer groups complain that up to 800 000 households in Germany can no longer pay their energy bills.

Energiewende, Erneuerbare Energien, Strompreis

Heating is becoming a luxury in Germany

Over the last few days, it has become obvious that the Green Energy Levy will rise to record levels next year. The first thing Peter Altmaier, Germany’s federal environment minister, would say is this: consumers should save electricity. After a meeting with local authorities, the energy industry, consumer advocates and charities he announced that to achieve this he wants to send free energy consultants to all households in Germany.

His proposal, however, was met by massive criticism: the chief executive of the Joint Welfare Association, Ulrich Schneider, said: “It would be naive to think that growing poverty caused by rising energy costs can be solved by free energy-saving advice.” The environment minister of Lower Saxony pointed out that energy advice was already available. What was needed now was an immediate response to the rising cost of electricity.

A few days later, Altmeier finally said that he wanted to shake up the Renewable Energy Act and thus get any further expansion of the renewable energy under control.

Electricity and heating costs overwhelm German households

The fact remains that as of next year electricity will be more expensive for Germans than ever before. This is all the more frustrating as they have to pay increasingly more for other things too. Yet energy costs are turning into a so-called ‘second rent’, making life for Germans ever more expensive.

Some years ago the tariffs for water, sewage, refuse collection and street cleaning were regarded as a nuisance, but looming price increases for energy are focusing Germans’ attention, says the Association of German Tenants in Berlin. “The disproportionate rise in electricity and heating costs makes living costs a growing problem for many households,” said DMB director Lukas Siebenkotten.

On average 34 percent of net household income are spent on rent and energy. That is more than ever. And it is only partly because housing rents are rising: The Association of House and Apartment Owners has found that energy prices have increased far more than rents in the past 15 years. According to the Association of Energy Consumers, heating and hot water costs now comprise 41 percent of bills on average - and rising.

Hundreds of thousands cannot pay their bills

Especially for small household budgets – with real incomes more or less stagnant for many years – energy costs are becoming increasingly intolerable. In 2009, Germans spent about 100 billion Euros for energy – an average of 2,500 Euros per household. Social campaigners and consumer groups complain that up to 800 000 households in Germany can no longer pay their electric bills. If the rise in energy prices continues, this “second rent” could soon exceed the main rent in some parts of Germany.

Energiewende, Erneuerbare Energien, Strompreis

European electricity prices in comparison

Translation Philipp Mueller

Focus Magazin, 15 October 2012