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Electricity meters: Switching suppliers can save money

Photo: Sebastian Gollnow / dpa

Nobody wants to give the all-clear when it comes to the energy crisis. But there is at least positive news for consumers. For example, electricity market experts believe it is unlikely that household prices for electricity and gas will rise sharply again in the coming winter.

"Due to the price cap in the retail price segment alone, the burden limit for household customers is limited until April 2024," electricity market expert Mirko Schlossarczyk from the consulting firm Enervis told the dpa news agency. There will therefore be no price explosion for household customers in the coming autumn and winter.

After last year's electricity and gas price shocks, the situation for household customers has now improved again. Consumers can now switch back to providers whose prices are in some cases well below the energy price brakes for electricity (40 cents per kilowatt hour) and gas (12 cents per kilowatt hour).

New customers in particular benefit

According to Schlossarzcyk, there are current electricity offers for new customers for less than 30 cents per kilowatt hour. In the case of natural gas, according to the consumer advice center of North Rhine-Westphalia, some providers currently offer a kilowatt hour for around 9 cents.

"Household electricity prices for new customers have fallen continuously since December 2022," Schlossarczyk said. "For existing customers and in the basic service, however, the price level is still noticeably higher and is currently just over 40 cents." These prices have fallen only slightly in recent months.

According to Schlossarczyk, the main reason for the decline in end-user electricity prices is a significant drop in wholesale prices on the electricity exchanges. "The main driver for this is the enormous decline in the price of gas on the spot market, which is now quoted at around 25 to 30 euros per megawatt hour, which is below pre-war levels."

The expert sees another reason in the sharp increase in the proportion of low-cost electricity feed-in from wind energy and solar systems in recent months due to weather conditions.

Differing purchasing policies of utilities

According to the comparison portal Check24, 76 percent of electricity tariffs in the basic supply are still above the electricity price brake despite reductions. In the alternative supply, on the other hand, 88 percent of the tariffs are already cheaper than the price brake, said a spokesman.

With an annual consumption of 5000 kilowatt hours, new customers currently pay an average of 31.4 cents per kilowatt hour from alternative suppliers. In the basic service, on the other hand, it is 43.2 cents. By comparison, according to the energy industry association BDEW, the average electricity price in Germany in June 2021 was just under 32 cents.

"The reasons for the price differences in end consumer prices lie in the procurement strategy of the energy suppliers," said expert Schlossarczyk. As a rule, suppliers stocked up on the stock exchanges in good time in order to compensate for extreme price fluctuations and not have to pass them on directly to end customers.

"However, this hedging strategy means that many utilities are only able to pass on the exchange electricity prices that have fallen in the meantime to their existing customers with a delay, as there are even larger trading volumes from the high price periods from the summer and autumn 2022 in the portfolio."

Current prices for new customers, on the other hand, are more favourable, as their delivery date is imminent and these delivery quantities are largely determined by currently secured trading volumes.

According to the comparison portal Verivox, gas prices are also falling. In the basic service, the portal has so far registered 75 price reductions of an average of 17 percent for June, July and August. Nine utilities have announced increases, namely by nine percent.

Check24 has already registered 106 gas price reductions in the basic supply since January. Despite these reductions, 90 percent of the gas tariffs in the basic supply are still above the gas price brake, the company reports. On average, consumers there paid 13.3 cents per kilowatt hour of natural gas.

In contrast, 80 percent of the tariffs in the alternative supply are already cheaper than the price brake. Check24 gives the average at 9.4 cents.

By comparison, according to BDEW, the average gas price in Germany in June 2021, i.e. before the start of the energy crisis, was just over 6 cents per kilowatt hour.

Consumer advocates advise customers to take the initiative

"We recommend switching providers," says Christina Wallraf, an energy expert at the North Rhine-Westphalia Consumer Center. The prices for new customers are "quite acceptable again". Not only discounters are currently coming around the corner with low prices, but also municipal utilities or sales brands of municipal utilities.

Anyone who wants to change should critically examine the existing contract. It is important to find out the remaining term and notice period in order to find the right time to change providers.

"If you are currently in the basic service, the contract can be terminated at any time, taking into account the statutory two-week period."