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Reader question: Should I invest in an electric heater in Germany this winter?

With gas prices on the rise in Germany, is it worth investing in a small electric heater rather than cranking up your home heating system?

Gas heaters on display in Hornbach Baumarkt in Fröttmaning.
Electric heaters are among the many heating devices lining store shelves right now, like these on display in on display in a Hornbach Baumarkt in Fröttmaning Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Hörhager

As gas prices skyrocket in Germany, largely fuelled by decreasing dependence on Russian gas and worries that the country could turn off the taps completely, many are worried that they won’t be able to foot their heating bill this winter.

A year ago, the cost of a megawatt hour of gas was around €20. By July, this had risen to around €140 per megawatt hour, leading to fears that bills could be as much as eight times higher than before when the colder months come.

READ ALSO: German households could see ‘four-digit rise’ in energy costs this winter

“With the alarming predictions about gas prices and heating costs for this winter, would using a small electric heater be SLIGHTLY cheaper and help reduce gas usage?” one Local reader asked us recently. 

“I have a small home office so will need some heat but the large radiator now seems a little scary financially.”

Cutting costs?

Johnson is not alone in considering investing in a home heater ahead of the winter. 

Sales of the devices have already shot up: in the first half of the year, around 600,000 were snapped up by shoppers in Germany, a full 35 percent more than in the same period last year, according to market research company GfK.

But these heating devices can actually have the opposite of the intended effect to cut costs, warn consumer protection experts.

At the moment, electricity costs in Germany are currently at an average of 30 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to oil and gas costs of 15 cents per kilowatt hour. This means that using electric heaters would be almost double the cost of using a radiator.

“You don’t save money with fan heaters; on the contrary, you drive up your electricity bill,” Ramona Pop, chairwoman of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations, told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

“In addition, there is the danger that the power distribution networks will be overloaded if massive numbers of electric heaters are turned on,” added Pop. 

Electric heaters are known as 'energy guzzlers' and their use could hurt the electricity grid in Germany. (Photo by Achudh Krishna on Unsplash)
Electric heaters are known as ‘energy guzzlers’ and their use could hurt the electricity grid in Germany. (Photo by Achudh Krishna on Unsplash)

Other methods to save energy

Germany’s Association of Energy Companies and the Federal Network Agency advises people to simply keep the temperature in rooms lower, even if it means bundling up more indoors, in order to save on energy costs.

“Electronic heating devices such as fan heaters, radiators and convectors are not made to replace heating and should therefore only be used with caution,” a spokeswoman for the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.

Many German housing contracts furthermore have a clause that radiator heating needs to be set to a minimum during the winter ‘Heizperiode’ (heating period) – usually to the two setting out of a maximum of five.

Also known as the Heizsaison, this chillier time officially starts around October 30th and ends on April 30th. However, the German government is looking into changing this law to allow people with these contracts to lower temperatures further if they choose to.

Other methods of saving on energy costs – while ensuring that rooms still stay warm enough – include making sure that old windows are properly sealed and ventilating properly, since dry air heats up more quickly than stuffy humid air. 

As water accounts for 13 percent of heating costs in Germany, it’s also worth investing in a water saving shower head and taking shorter showers instead of longer baths. 

READ ALSO: 8 simple ways to save on heating costs in Germany

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Qatar agrees to ‘long-term gas supply’ deal with Germany

Qatar has agreed to send Germany two million tons of liquefied natural gas a year for at least 15 years, officials said Tuesday, as Europe's biggest economy scrambles for alternative supplies after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Qatar agrees to 'long-term gas supply' deal with Germany

Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi said up to two million tons of gas a year would be sent for at least 15 years from 2026, and that state-run QatarEnergy was discussing other possible deals for Europe’s biggest

Kaabi, who is also QatarEnergy’s chief executive, said so many European and Asian countries now want natural gas that he did not have enough negotiators to cope.

The talks for the latest deal took several months as Germany has resisted the long-term contracts that Qatar normally demands to justify its massive investment in the industry.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February increased pressure on the German government to find new sources. And the latest deal will not help the country get through the looming winter.

The gas will be bought through US firm ConocoPhillips, a long-term partner with QatarEnergy, and sent to a new terminal that Germany is hurrying to finish at Brunsbuttel.

“We are committed to contribute to the energy security of Germany and Europe at large,” Kaabi told a press conference after the signing ceremony with ConocoPhillips chief executive Ryan Lance.

Lance hailed the accord as “a vital contribution to world energy security”.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Germany’s alternatives to Russian gas?

Qatar last week announced a 27-year agreement to ship four million tons a year to China. It said this was the longest contract agreed in the industry.

Qatari officials would not discuss prices but industry analysts have said Germany will have to pay a premium for the shorter contract and the hurried start to deliveries.

Intense demand

Kaabi again stressed the “sizeable investments” that his country has made in extracting gas for deliveries around the world.
But he also said that Qatar was negotiating with German companies to further increase the “volumes” being sent.

The gas will come from the North Field East and North Field South projects that Qatar is developing with ConocoPhillips and other energy multinationals.

North Field contains the world’s biggest natural gas reserves and extends under the Gulf into Iranian territory.

Through expansion in North Field, Qatar is aiming to increase its production by 60 percent by 2027. With increases in international prices, the value of its exports has almost doubled in the past year, state media said

Asian countries led by China, Japan and South Korea have been the main market for Qatar’s gas, but it has been increasingly targeted by European countries since Russia’s war on Ukraine threw supplies into doubt.

“There is very intense discussions with European buyers and with Asian buyers,” Kaabi said, highlighting the “scarcity of gas coming in the next few years”.

“We do not have enough teams to work with everybody, to cater for the needs” of all countries making demands.

Kaabi said the deal with China’s Sinopec showed that “Asian buyers are feeling the pressure of wanting to secure long-term deals… I think we are in a good position.”

The Brunsbuttel terminal supplies customers of German energy companies Uniper and RWE, and Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck said the two firms “have to buy on the world market.

“It is clear that the world market has different suppliers, and it is smart from the companies to buy the most favourable offers for the consumers on the world market, and that includes Qatar.

“But this is not the only supplier on the market.”