For households, there has recently been calm when it comes to electricity prices. But this phase is over. At the turn of the year, many utilities announced increases. Consumer advocates criticize the reason.

A three-phase meter measures the electricity consumption of a household.

FFor many households in Germany, electricity will be significantly more expensive in the coming year. The prices of numerous providers of basic services rise by an average of 4 to 5 percent. According to calculations by the comparison portal Verivox, a three-person household with an annual consumption of 4,000 kilowatt hours then pays around 55 euros more per year. The suppliers justify the price increases with their increased purchase prices for the electricity. According to figures from the Federal Network Agency, the average electricity price was largely stable this year.

Shortly before the end of the announcement period for possible price increases this Tuesday – six weeks before the turn of the year – Verivox recorded 218 suppliers with price increases in December and January 1. The Check 24 portal sees the situation in a similar way: 160 regional electricity suppliers have already increased their prices or announced increases.

“Experience has shown that there will be additional suppliers in the next few weeks,” said the Check-24 managing director responsible for energy, Oliver Bohr. According to Verivox, a particularly large number of price increases have so far been announced in Baden-Württemberg and Hesse.

Eon and Innogy keep price stable

The two largest German electricity suppliers, Eon and the RWE subsidiary Innogy, are keeping the electricity price stable at the turn of the year, as spokesmen for both companies said. How long this will apply has not yet been decided. “We are watching the development,” said an Eon spokesman. Together, the Essen-based companies have around ten million electricity and gas customers in Germany. Eon plans to take over the Innogy customers as part of a large-scale swap with RWE.

The utilities justified the price increases. The industry association BdEW announced that the procurement costs have risen by more than half in the past two years. The rise in prices for CO2 emission certificates is also driving up costs. Smaller reliefs for other components of the electricity price could not compensate for the increase.

Consumer advocates criticized this argument. “When the stock exchange prices fell a few years ago, the utilities referred to their long-term contracts and did not pass the savings on to their customers,” said the energy expert at the consumer center in North Rhine-Westphalia, Udo Sieverding. “Now you can quickly get involved with price increases when stock market prices rise.”

The Federal Network Agency puts the proportion of procurement costs in the electricity price at around 22 percent. More than half are accounted for by surcharges, taxes and charges, and almost a quarter by network charges. For the reference date April 1, 2018, the authority determined an average electricity price across all contract types of 29.88 cents per kilowatt hour. The price has been at this level since 2016.

Basic service tariffs are more expensive

According to new figures from the Federal Network Agency, just under 28 percent of households still have a contract for the classic basic service with comparatively high prices. A change in the contract is worthwhile for many, emphasize the competition watchdog. An average household customer was recently able to save 68 euros a year by switching supplier.

The joint monitoring report from the network agency and the cartel office gives some tips for changing providers: Consumers should avoid tariffs with prepayment or a deposit, and the contract period should not exceed one year. In addition, consumers would have to ensure that a considerable price increase is possible after the fixed price has expired.