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ENERGY

EXPLAINED: How much will Germany’s gas levy cost you?

On Monday, gas operators in Germany announced an additional charge of 2.419 cents per kilowatt hour which will come into force in October. Here’s what you need to know.

A man holds a wad of euro notes next to a radiator.
A man holds a wad of euro notes next to a radiator. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Büttner

What’s going on?

Households in Germany will face significantly higher gas prices this autumn and winter.

The gas transmission system operator, Trading Hub Europe, announced on Monday that German gas suppliers will be allowed to add 2.419 cents per kilowatt hour to the price of gas from October onwards, to help them cope with hugely increased procurement costs. 

The surcharge is aimed at sharing out the soaring costs borne by energy importers after Russia drastically decreased gas supplies to Germany after the invasion of Ukraine.

Gas importers have so far taken on the additional costs themselves, but a new rule agreed by the government allows them to pass on ballooning costs via the levy to households from October 1st.

How much more are you likely to pay for gas?

For an average family house of 160 square metres, which uses 23,000 kilowatt hours per year, this surcharge would amount to around an extra €556.

Those who live in an apartment of 85 square metres, which uses an average of 12,000 kilowatt hours per year, will be likely to pay an extra €290 annually.

Those living in an apartment of 50 square metres are likely to pay an extra €121 to €169 per year.

The levy will primarily affect property owners with gas heating, as well as tenants living in households that have floor heating and their own gas contracts.

What is not yet clear, however, is how households in Germany supplied with Fernwärme (district heating) will be affected by the levy. 

A gas bill in front of a meter, which reads: “your gas bill in detail”. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

In many places, this type of energy supply comes from gas-fired power plants and operators of such power plants are supposed to pay the surcharge.

So far operators have no legal means of passing on these costs to their customers, but the German government wants to look into this issue, so this is likely to change. 

Will VAT be charged on the levy?

The German government wants to waive the value-added tax on gas, but it needs permission from the EU to do so. Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) wrote to the Commission on Friday asking for an exception to EU law to be granted so that Germany does not have to charge VAT on the state gas levy.

READ ALSO: Germany pledges inflation relief tax package worth €10 billion

In a letter to Finance Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, the FDP politician wrote: “VAT on state-imposed levies drives up prices and meets with increasing resistance from the population, especially in the current, exceptional situation.”

It is not yet clear how the Commission is likely to respond to this request.

Haven’t gas prices already increased?

Yes. Numerous gas suppliers have already increased their prices more than once throughout the course of the year.

Most recently, suppliers such as Rheinenergie, Wuppertaler Stadtwerke and Energieversorgung Oberhausen announced significant rate increases. “There is a major wave of price increases,” says energy expert Udo Sieverding from the consumer centre of North Rhine-Westphalia.

In the case of Rheinenergie, for example, an average household, with 15,000 to 20,000 kilowatt hours of annual consumption, is already paying just under €2,000 in additional annual costs after the latest round of price hikes, even before the levy.

Will there be government help for consumers?

Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) announced that the third relief package from the German government will be in place by the start of the levy on October 1st. The traffic light coalition has also agreed on a reform of the housing allowance and is planning a permanent heating allowance for low-income households.

In addition, the new ‘citizen’s allowance’ – a replacement of the current unemployment benefits system – is due to come into effect next year, and promises higher standard rates for the unemployed. 

READ ALSO: Bürgergeld: What to know about Germany’s unemployment benefits shake-up

At the beginning of September, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) will meet with social partners and other experts as part of a concerted action to discuss relief measures. The main focus will be on supporting lower-income groups that are hit hardest by high energy costs.

The SPD and welfare associations are proposing, for example, monthly direct payments to recipients of basic security and housing allowances and a price cap for a basic quantity of gas is also being discussed.

Economics Minister Robert Habeck explained: “Especially for those who don’t have much, it’s a heavy burden that is impossible or difficult to bear.” 

On Monday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) tried to reassure people via Twitter that the government would help balance out the extra costs. 

In the tweet, he said, “we won’t leave anyone alone with the higher costs”. At the same time, Scholz admitted: “It’s getting more expensive – there’s no beating around the bush. Energy prices continue to rise.” So far, he said, government aid of more than €30 billion has already been agreed upon. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s Scholz pledges more relief for lowest earners

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ENERGY

Gas bills in Germany will remain high despite price cap, warns economist

Germany is planning to bring in a cap on the price of gas for consumers. But a leading economist has warned that energy prices will still remain high. What can we expect?

Gas bills in Germany will remain high despite price cap, warns economist

The German government last week announced a €200 billion relief package to help support private households and companies with spiralling energy prices. 

As part of the plans, a gas price cap is set to come into force in Germany, limiting the amount that people pay to use gas amid rocketing prices. 

The details on how it will work are still being thrashed out. But chairwoman of the gas price commission, Veronika Grimm, has dampened expectations for how big an effect the cap will have on energy bills. 

“We will permanently end our dependence on Russia,” the economics professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.

“So the gas price will remain significantly higher than before the Russian invasion of Ukraine due to higher liquid gas procurement prices – despite a gas price cap.” 

Grim suggested that the gas price cap could be in the form of a one-time payment to encourage people to continue using less gas. 

“It will be important to maintain a high savings incentive,” she said. “With a one-time payment, that would clearly be the case.

“You would have a much lower incentive to save if you lowered the price of gas by a certain percentage.”

On Thursday the Federal Network Agency warned that people in Germany are using too much gas.

“Gas consumption rose too sharply last week,” said Klaus Müller, head of the agency. 

He said gas usage among households and small firms was nearly 10 percent higher last week than the average consumption for the years 2018 to 2021.

“The situation could become very serious if we do not significantly reduce our gas consumption,” said Müller.

Meanwhile, economist Grimm slammed the time pressure that the gas price commission panel was under. The commission is to present proposal to policymakers on how a gas price brake could work in the coming days. 

“The decision to convene such a body could have been made a few months ago; after all, the development in gas prices was foreseeable,” Grimm said.

READ ALSO: German households see record hikes in heating costs 

Vocabulary 

One-time payment – (die) Einmalzahlung

Gas price cap/brake – (die) Gaspreisbremse

Significantly higher – deutlich höher 

Foreseeable – absehbar

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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