Electricity got cheaper in 2015 – finally, say consumer advocates. But when it comes to gas, customers are paying too much, in their opinion.
Finally, the price of electricity is easing. Photo: dpa
For a long 14 years, Germany’s electricity customers had to put up with sharply rising prices; in 2015, there is finally a slight easing. In the first half of the year, average electricity prices did not rise any further, but instead fell by one to a good three percent, depending on the region, in view of the fall in procurement costs on the electricity exchanges and hardly any change in government charges. This is the result of calculations by the electricity comparison portals Verivox and Check24. There was also slight relief for gas. But critics say that the companies are passing on far too few savings to end customers.
The trend toward lower-priced electricity is likely to continue in the second half of the year, price observers expect. After all, the price of electricity on the stock exchange remains under heavy pressure. According to the industry association BDEW, the average kilowatt hour for household customers now costs less than 29 cents again. In the first half of the year, an average family of four with an annual consumption of 4,000 kilowatt hours and electricity costs of just over 1,100 euros saved around 15 euros a year – enough for a family pizza.
The experts expect price risks above all from the expensive expansion of the electricity networks, which will be passed on to prices. After all, network fees account for around 23 percent of the electricity price. Different network charges are already responsible for significant regional differences in electricity prices.
Climate protection plans cost
In the first half of the year, for example, the eastern states saw an average reduction of just one percent, while the western states saw a good two percent. The frontrunners are Bremen (electricity prices down 3.8 percent) and Bavaria (down 3.1 percent), while Saxony’s electricity customers were only relieved by 0.5 percent on average.
The climate protection plans of Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) could also become expensive for consumers. The payment of Vattenfall and RWE for transferring lignite-fired power plants to the power plant reserve and a significantly higher subsidy for combined heat and power generation could increase the price of electricity by 0.5 cents per kilowatt hour, according to NRW Economics Minister Garrelt Duin. Here, however, precise calculations are only possible once the political decisions have been made.
The same applies to the billions in reserves from the EEG levy. Green Party member of the Bundestag Barbel Hohn is calling for its reduction in favor of electricity customers: "Consumers have so far paid around 2-3 billion euros too much for the expansion of renewable energies. The corresponding levy has been set artificially too high and must fall promptly," she told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. However, it remains to be seen whether and when the federal government will do so and how much electricity price savings this could bring.
Gas customers also saved money in the first six months: on average, gas was around 1.6 percent cheaper in the period, she said. An average family with an annual consumption of 20,000 kilowatt hours and annual gas costs of around 1,300 euros saves a good 20 euros as a result. According to the figures from Check24, the reduction is 1.9 percent.
Switching pays off
For the energy expert Udo Sieverding of the consumer center North Rhine-Westphalia that is however much too little price reduction. "Import prices have fallen back to the 2010 level," says Sieverding. In his opinion, this would mean a price reduction of around 100 euros per household per year. "But so far, the gas suppliers are pocketing most of it themselves." Only each fourth of the well 700 gas basic suppliers lowered so far the prices, although the procurement became noticeably more favorable, complains also Verivox.
RWE as a large gas supplier without current price reduction rejects this criticism: The gas price hung for a long time no longer so strongly as in former times at the – strongly fallen – oil price. RWE sees no tendency to a broad price reduction at the market, said a selling speaker. The fact that RWE has kept gas prices constant for years could also be of benefit to consumers – if there are increases in procurement prices again, he said.
Despite the slight price relief for gas and electricity, it is still worth switching to cheaper suppliers. The price gap between the expensive basic supply and particularly favorable tariffs has even widened further, both price comparison portals found. Depending on where they live, consumers can choose on average between around 150 electricity suppliers and 100 gas suppliers – and in some cases save several hundred euros by switching each year.