Energy in Germany: what you should know before choosing a supplier

If getting settled in a new country wasn't challenging enough, many internationals arriving in Germany find getting their power supply organised a baffling experience.

Energy in Germany: what you should know before choosing a supplier
Photo: Getty

Take heart, however – following a few key pieces of advice can save you time, money and heartache, not to mention massive bills. Together with the German power supplier for internationals, Ostrom, we explain how to get connected in Germany, without breaking the bank.

Learn more about Ostrom, the German energy provider that works entirely in English 

Plugging in 

The good news is, you don’t have to pick an energy provider before you move into an apartment. You will automatically be supplied by the default supplier for the city or region where you live, known as the Grundversorger (‘basic provider’). While this is one less thing to worry about upon moving in to your new home, a few months down the line you might find that you’re paying far more than you should be.

This is why shopping around for a new energy provider is such a good idea. With over a thousand providers across the nation, competition for your custom is fierce. Comparison sites exist, but they sometimes miss some of the best deals. A little hands on research will be much more beneficial.

Once you’ve picked your supplier, it’s worth continuing to compare prices every year, as the market can fluctuate wildly, and new providers are appearing on the market all the time. It’s worth keeping your options open! 

Bear in mind that some providers will have a minimum contract period. While there are provisions under German law under which you can cancel, this usually involves lots of faxing and posting forms. There are very few fully digital options out there. 

Something else to consider is that a lot of providers will offer a one-time bonus upon signing a contract. This is usually a considerable discount applied across the first year – tempting! However, stay with that provider longer than a year and you’ll see considerable price hikes to make up for it.

Avoid the hassle of choosing from thousands of German power suppliers – explore your options with Ostrom, the power supplier for internationals 

 (Photo: Ostrom)

Powering up  

One thing that might seem strange when dealing with a German power supplier, is that you will prepay for power. Either you or your power supplier will estimate the amount of electricity you use over the course of a year, and you will be billed at regular intervals, depending on your supplier. 

This has some benefits. If you use less power than estimated, you will get a rebate at the end of the year. This can be a very nice surprise. However, if you exceed this estimation, you will receive a Nachzahlung (‘after payment’), a demand to pay the difference. In any case, it is a very good idea to regularly monitor your power usage, which can be found on your Stromzähler (meter), which is usually in the basement of your home or apartment block.

You may discover that Germans use power differently to those from other countries. Relatively few Germans have a clothes dryer, for instance, and almost none have air conditioning in their home. This is is because German houses and apartments are generally designed to stay cool in summer, warm in winter, and be well ventilated. If you’re used to using these kind of appliances, you may find that your electricity bills soon become quite large. Moreover, your German friends may scoff! 

It may take some getting used to, but a clothes drying rack from Tedi or Aldi, or a basic box fan, will end up saving you a considerable amount of money in the long run. Consider it an investment in your future adventures, exploring all that Germany has to offer. 

Making the (right) switch 

Many German electricity providers love nothing more than swamping you with legal documentation and complex German that even some C1-level students struggle with. If you’re looking to avoid the stress of wading through the fine print, consider switching to Ostrom, the energy provider specifically created with internationals in mind. No sneaky price hikes, no cancellation fees, just an energy provider working for you. 

Ostrom is entirely digital, app-based and entirely in English – no fiddly German terms to deal with. Live assistance from English-speaking operators is available, and you’ll never have to be searching through piles of paperwork to find important information.

Using the app you can upload meter readings to keep track of your usage, and view and change your monthly payments accordingly. You can cancel any time, and come back without penalty. In a country that prides itself on paperwork, that’s a real game changer! 

Ostrom not only aims to make life easier for you, but it’s also 100 percent green. They’ve signed with a solar plant in Maßbach so you can be sure your electricity is truly green, and you can even point to where it comes from on a map. If the excellent customer service and easy-to-use app weren’t enough, you can rest assured that you’re helping Germany transition away from fossil fuels, and minimising your carbon footprint in the process!

Ready to make the switch to an easy-to-use, English-speaking energy supplier who is there for you when you need them? Start your switch to Ostrom today! 

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German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine exacerbating high energy and petrol prices, Germany is set to introduce a second relief package to limit the impact on consumers.

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

The additional package of measures was announced by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Sunday.

Speaking to DPA, Habeck said the wave of price increases throughout the energy sector were becoming increasingly difficult for households to bear.

“Extremely high heating costs, extremely high electricity prices, and extremely high fuel prices are putting a strain on households, and the lower the income, the more so,” he said. “The German government will therefore launch another relief package.”

The costs of heating and electricity have hit record highs in the past few months due to post-pandemic supply issues. 

This dramatic rise in prices has already prompted the government to introduce a range of measures to ease the burden on households, including abolishing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) levy earlier than planned, offering grants to low-income households and increasing the commuter allowance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

But since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24th, the attack has been driving up energy prices further, Habeck explained.

He added that fears of supply shortages and speculation on the market were currently making the situation worse. 

How will the package work?

When defining the new relief measures, the Economics Ministry will use three criteria, Habeck revealed. 

Firstly, the measures must span all areas of the energy market, including heating costs, electricity and mobility. 

Heating is the area where households are under the most pressure. The ministry estimates that the gas bill for an average family in an unrenovated one-family house will rise by about €2,000 this year. 

Secondly, the package should include measures to help save energy, such as reducing car emissions or replacing gas heating systems.

Thirdly, market-based incentives should be used to ensure that people who use less energy also have lower costs. 

“The government will now put together the entire package quickly and constructively in a working process,” said Habeck.

Fuel subsidy

The three-point plan outlined by the Green Party politician are not the only relief proposals being considered by the government.

According to reports in German daily Bild, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FPD) is allegedly considering introducing a state fuel subsidy for car drivers.

The amount of the subsidy – which hasn’t yet been defined – would be deducted from a driver’s bill when paying at the petrol station. 

The operator of the petrol station would then have to submit the receipts to the tax authorities later in order to claim the money back. 

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen dramatically in Germany: diesel has gone up by around 66 cents per litre, while a litre of E10 has gone up by around 45 cents.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

As well as support for consumers, the government is currently working on a credit assistance programme to assist German companies that have been hit hard by the EU sanctions against Russia.

As reported by Bild on Saturday, bridging aid is also being discussed for companies that can no longer manage the sharp rise in raw material prices.

In addition, an extension of the shorter working hours (Kurzarbeit) scheme beyond June 30th is allegedly being examined, as well as a further increase in the commuter allowance.