German local authorities demand reduction in energy prices

As energy prices continue to rise, the German Association of Cities is calling for higher assistance for low-income earners and the reform of electricity taxes and levies.

Electricity meter
An electricity meter shows household's electricity use in kilowatt hours. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

“The high energy prices at the beginning of the cold season are worrying us,” Helmut Dedy, Chief Executive of the Association of Cities, told the Rheinische Post on Monday.

“The federal government should support those affected with electricity price support and housing subsidies.”

No one should sit in a cold flat in winter because they cannot afford heating, he added.

Specifically, the Association of Cities is pushing for an increase in the heating allowance in the housing allowance for low-income households.

“This affects more than 660,000 households in Germany, 153,000 of them in North Rhine-Westphalia alone,” said Dedy. 

Last year, when the CO2 tax went up, the government offered additional support to lower income households by providing compensation for heating costs to people receiving housing benefits.

Dedy believes this could serve as a model for the coming winter.

Energy bills up 25 percent 

The cost of heating a house has risen dramatically in Germany over the past year. From a 15-year low of 5.44 cents per kilowatt hour in late 2020, the price climbed to 7.01 cents per kilowatt hour this October.

For some households, this means that monthly bills have risen by 25 percent in the space of a year. 

Speaking to Tagesschau, Leonora Holling from the Association of Energy Consumers predicted that consumer energy prices were now on course to exceed their previous peak in 2008, when the price climbed to 8.09 cents per kilowatt hour.

On October 15th, German grid operators announced that the government would be slashing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) surcharge to ease the burden on struggling households. 


The green levy, which is used to fund renewable energy sources like wind and solar, will be slashed by more than 40 percent to 3.72 cents per kilowatt hour from January 1st, 2022. This will be the lowest the levy has been in around ten years.

“We welcome the fact that the EEG levy is to be reduced in the new year,” Dedy said. “But that is not enough. The new federal government should abolish the EEG levy.”

The SPD, Green and FDP parties – which are currently in talks to form a coalition government – say they want to stop funding the EEG levy via electricity costs as soon as possible.

Helmut Dedy, CEO of Association of Cities
Helmut Dedy, CEO of the German Association of Cities, says the EEG levy should be dropped entirely. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

However, the three parties did not say when exactly the levy would be completely abolished and how renewable energy would be financed after the levy is dropped.

The Association of Cities is now demanding more speed, and has also called on the new government to “reform the system of taxes and levies on electricity”.

The government should aim promote the production and wider adoption of green, renewable energy sources through this reform, they said. 

“If we do this, it also helps the economy,” Dedy stressed.

According to the Association of Cities, the current situation of soaring prices has made it clear that people need to become independent of fossil fuels with their strongly fluctuating prices as quickly as possible.

Business associations are already warning that the massive increases in gas and electricity prices pose a wider risk to the German economy as a whole.

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How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:


WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.


Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.


TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.


Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.


Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.