SHARE
COPY LINK
PRESENTED BY OSTROM

How not to get shocked by your next German electricity bill

Ever opened your electricity bill in Germany and wondered why and how you're paying so much? Are you confused by German electricity contracts and their masses of inscrutable text?

How not to get shocked by your next German electricity bill

Dealing with the in and outs of getting connected and paying electricity bills is something many of those moving to Germany end up struggling with. 

To help our readers get a better sense of how electricity contracts in Germany work, The Local spoke with CEO and co-founder of digital renewable provider Ostrom, Matthias Martensen, to answer some of the most common questions asked by The Local Germanys readers.

Can you please explain ‘Nachzahlung’?

“Unfortunately, Germany is still not very digital, so upon registering with an energy provider you need to submit an estimation of your consumption for one year. After one year you will be asked to submit your actual meter reading, so your provider can calculate your final bill.

If you have used more energy than estimated, you will have to pay the extra amount – this is known as Nachzahlung or ‘after payment’. However, if you used less energy than estimated you will receive a refund into your bank account. You should of course receive a statement from your provider, indicating whether you will need to pay, or be refunded.” 

Does a landlord have any right to refuse if you want to change your electricity provider?

“This depends on your rental agreement. If you pay for your energy yourself, you have the freedom to choose your own supplier.

In the vast majority of cases in Germany, outside of a shared apartment, your electricity provider is your choice, and it is important that you compare the offers of providers, so that you pay only what you need.”

What are the major factors that influence my electricity prices?

“Energy prices are driven by two main factors—one is the raw commodity prices for coal, oil and gas, and the other is the weather. When there’s lots of wind and sun, Germany can produce a substantial amount of renewable energy, which is cheaper.

Of course, global events also have an effect on the prices offered by electricity providers, as we have seen over the last couple months.”

Looking for a new electricity provider? Ostrom is a sustainable energy provider with all services provided in English. Find out more

How often can we expect to see changes in our electricity bill prices? How will current events influence how much I pay for electricity?

“At Ostrom we try to minimize price swings as much as possible. As you can imagine, this has been difficult to do in the last few months due to the energy crisis and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Unfortunately, Germany is still quite dependent on conventional power plants, a lot of which use gas and coal that is imported from Russia.

Over the next couple of months, a lot will depend on whether European governments will introduce oil and gas embargoes, as we have seen discussed in the media, or whether Russia will stop exports altogether. Both would mean higher electricity prices across all of Europe.”

What are some ways that I can reduce my electricity bill? 

“There are several ways you can save on energy. The most effective is to create good habits like switching off lights when you aren’t in the room, hanging your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer or turning appliances off instead of leaving them in standby mode.

You can also ensure that your household appliances have a high energy efficiency rating, as shown by the EU energy label. You can also ask to see the Energieausweis, or ‘energy certificate’ for an apartment or building you are looking to rent, to see how energy-efficient the property is at retaining heat, for example. 

Perhaps one of the most effective things people can do to save is provide regular meter readings via the app to the supplier. This means that your tariff can be more accurately calculated. 

Ostrom put together a comprehensive list of tips on how to save energy here: Ostrom‘s Energy Saving Tips.”

Find out more about the German energy provider built for internationals, whose service you can manage from your smartphone

A fixed-price guarantee could end up costing you more than you think.

I see many electricity providers offering a ‘fixed price guarantee” – will I save money with one? 

“Fixed prices automatically mean a tiered-system and you need luck when you sign up. In the current situation for instance this means you are locked into high prices. At Ostrom all customers are on the same price and if prices decrease, we will pass those savings to our customers. The majority of providers don’t like to take risks, and will pass the cost burden onto customers, even if circumstances change and energy becomes cheaper over time.

This is why we don’t offer fixed price guarantees at Ostrom. When prices decrease, so does our tariff. Lowering prices is something we’ve already done this year. With our flexible monthly plan, every customer pays the same price for electricity, and you can adjust your monthly payment at any time.”

In recent months the legislation surrounding contract lock-ins has somewhat changed, but the fact remains that traditional energy suppliers still require you to sign a minimum 12-month contract with them at a fixed price.

Ostrom co-founder, Matthias Martensen, and the Massbach Solarpark in Bavaria.

Not only is Ostrom a German electricity provider that passes savings onto the consumer, it is specifically designed for international workers and students in Germany. A simple tariff applies to all customers, and the more often you submit a meter reading, the more likely you are to save money. 

Furthermore, all Ostrom documentation and contracts are in English and everything can be controlled from the smartphone app, including the submission of meter readings. 

Finally, if sustainability matters to you, Ostrom sources their power from renewable sources, including the Maßbach Solarpark in Bavaria. 

Ostrom is a good choice for those making the move to Germany. As Matthias Martensen told The Local: “We know that electricity contracts in Germany can prove bewildering. Since we’re a young international company ourselves, we have a natural understanding of the needs of a modern, flexible and international clientele. It’s in our DNA.”

Looking for a sustainable energy provider designed for international residents? Find out more about how Ostrom does energy differently, and how you can benefit

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

ENERGY

When will Germany’s fuel tax cut come into force?

As part of its package of energy relief measures, the German government is hoping to give car drivers a discount at the petrol pump. But how will it work and when will it come into force?

When will Germany's fuel tax cut come into force?

What’s going on? 

It hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that energy prices have skyrocketed in recent months. Along with eye-wateringly high heating and electricity bills, drivers have also been feeling the pinch at the petrol pump.

Even before the Ukraine war broke out, energy supply issues were driving up prices at petrol stations – a situation that led to the absurd spectacle of Germans driving across the border to Switzerland (one of the most expensive countries in the world) to fill up their tank for less.

In the early weeks of the war, it wasn’t uncommon to pay €2.20 per litre for Super E10 petrol in Germany, while diesel could average as much as €2.29 per litre. This represents a whopping 45 cent increase on petrol prices and 65 cents on diesel prices compared to the same time last year.

To help people struggling with the price hikes, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) initially pitched the idea of a “fuel discount” that petrol station owners could offer to customers and then claim back from the state. But there was such an intense backlash to this proposal that it essentially fell at the first hurdle and never made it into the government’s package of energy relief measures.

Instead, the government is hoping to give drivers a discount another way: by reducing the energy taxes levied on each litre of fuel for three months. It’s hoping that this will also go some way to reducing petrol prices over summer. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s proposals for future energy price relief

But haven’t fuel prices gone down again recently?

That’s right. But experts don’t think this amounts to a stabilisation in the long term.

Both petrol and diesel prices sunk quite significantly after the initial price shock, but are climbing up steadily again – and according to motorists’ association ADAC, both remain a little over €2 per litre

This means drivers are still paying significantly more to fill up their tanks than they were a year ago, so the upcoming tax cut will no doubt be welcome. 

How much of a discount can drivers expect?

If all of it is passed on to consumers, the cut in energy tax is expected to reduce the price of a litre of diesel by around 14 cents, while a litre of petrol will be reduced by almost 30 cents.

That’s equivalent to a saving of €15 on a 50-litre tank of E10 and €7 on a 50-litre tank of diesel. 

Of course, a lot also depends on the development of the energy market: if prices continue to go up, drivers may not feel they’re saving a great deal, but it should make a difference in the short-term.

According to ADAC, around 48 percent of the cost of a litre of fuel goes directly to the state through the CO2 tax, energy tax, value-added tax (VAT) and other fossil fuel taxes – so tax cuts can make a big difference. 

But the price of purchasing fossil fuels (which has been affected through the war and supply chain issues) and the strength of the dollar are also important factors that determine how much horror drivers experience on their visits to the petrol station. 

Fuel prices in Germany March 2022

Fuel prices at a petrol station in Cologne on March 9th, 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

What’s the timeline for this? 

The government is hoping to pass its entire package of energy relief measures in the Bundestag on Thursday and get approval from the Bundesrat on Friday. This will get the ball rolling for many of the measures to launch next month. 

Much like the €9 monthly travel ticket for trains and buses, the fuel tax cut is a time-limited measure, and just like the discounted ticket, it will run from the start of June to the end of August.

Since it’s up to petrol station owners to pass their savings onto consumers, however, experts predict a lag of a few days before drivers start seeing the tax cut reflected in the fuel prices. 

At that point, ADAC is predicting that drivers will go on a manic spending spree, so they’re advising people not to drive in the early days of June with a near-empty tank. If they do, they could face some long queues at the petrol station. 

Aren’t we trying to save on energy at the moment?

Well, quite. With fears growing that Russia could turn off the taps in retaliation for Germany’s support for Ukraine, the message from the government has been all about conserving energy as much as possible in the lead-up to winter.

But by reducing the price of fuel, the same government is essentially encouraging people to use their cars more often, economists say. 

“It is counterproductive to lower petrol station prices in this situation, because then people will drive more,” economist Veronika Grimm told Tagesschau. “And that is exactly the opposite of what they want to achieve.” 

READ ALSO: Russia using energy ‘as weapon’, says Berlin

An ARAL petrol station in Leipzig.

An ARAL petrol station in Leipzig. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

At this point, you might expect an uproar from the Greens – who are part of the governing traffic-light coalition along with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Free Democrats (FDP). But that uprising seems to have been headed off at the pass by the €9 public transport ticket that will run alongside the fuel discount. 

In fact, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has admitted that the tax cut “isn’t the most targeted measure” but says the continued high price of fuel will still put many people off driving.

“Many people are suffering from the high fuel prices,” says Habeck. “They’ll still suffer enough even if the fuel tax is lowered for three months. So in truth it’s not really cheap driving.” 

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

What else are people saying? 

The other major criticism of the fuel tax cut is that it’s likely to benefit the wrong people. 

“Typically, those who drive a lot benefit from fuel rebates,” Grimm told Tagesschau. “And those are the ones who have who have multiple cars. These are typically the higher earners.” 

This has led to criticism that the €3.15 billion that the rebate will cost is essentially a redistribution of wealth to the top of society, rather than the bottom.

READ ALSO: Who benefits the most – and least – from Germany’s energy relief measures?

Obviously, the government disagrees with this assessment. They argue that cheaper fuel will help drivers foot their bills and stimulate the economy at the same time.

The motorists’ association ADAC is also concerned that the measure may lead to queues at petrol stations, but says that drivers can still opt to save fuel of their own accord over summer.

The best way to do this is to pump up the tyres, ditch the roof rack and other unnecessary weight, and drive at a slow, steady speed to avoid accelerating and braking too much, ADAC explains. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s largest car club calls on drivers to ditch their cars

SHOW COMMENTS