The pre-tax prices of electricity and natural gas soared after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but they're now on the decline. Although slightly higher than the second half of 2022, the final prices for customers, including taxes, reached their peak in the first half of 2023.
Electricity and gas costs, which experienced a sharp increase after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are now steadying in Europe, after peaking in the first half of 2023.
While pre-tax prices are decreasing, some countries have already frozen the support measures they offered households, resulting in higher consumer prices.
The EU appears to be more ready for winter this year now that it has largely replaced Russian energy, but it's worth noting that there's disparity between electricity and natural gas prices among individual countries both within and outside the bloc.
Which countries have the highest and lowest prices in Europe, and by how much have electricity and natural gas prices increased since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022?
In the first half of 2023, average household electricity prices including all taxes in the EU rose from €25.3 per 100 kWh to €28.9 per 100 kWh, compared with the same period in 2022.
Average natural gas prices also climbed from €8.6 per 100 kWh to €11.9 per 100 kWh in the same period. These are the highest prices recorded by Eurostat, the EU’s official statistical office.
Looking at the percentage changes year-over-year, the electricity prices in the EU increased by 14.5% in the first half of 2023, and gas prices rose by 37.9%. These figures are lower than the second half of 2022, when the percentage changes year-over-year reached their peak.
The figures suggest that electricity and gas prices are stabilising in the EU, according to Eurostat, even though the final consumer prices with taxes are slightly higher than in the second half of 2022: Pre-tax prices on electricity and natural gas are decreasing, yet countries are partly withdrawing their energy price support measures, explaining the increase.
In the first half of 2023, electricity prices including taxes for household consumers in the European Economic Area (EEA) ranged from €11.4 per 100 kWh in Bulgaria to €47.5 per 100 kWh in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands was followed by Belgium (€43.5), Romania (€42) and Germany (€41.3).
Electricity prices were higher in nine EU Member States than the EU average.
As France has the highest share of nuclear in its electricity mix (68.9% in 2021) in the EU, its electricity prices were significantly below the EU average, with €23.2 per 100 kWh in the first half of 2023.
This was not the case for Belgium, where the share of nuclear in its electricity production was 50.6%. Belgium came in second on the most expensive electricity price list.
EU candidate countries had the cheapest electricity
When the EU's candidate countries are also included, Turkey recorded the cheapest electricity prices with €8.4 per 100 kWh. The six countries at the bottom were all EU candidates, with prices fluctuating little between them.
The average household gas prices in the first half of 2023 were lowest in Hungary (€3.4 per 100 kWh), Croatia (€4.1) and Slovakia (€5.7), and highest in the Netherlands (€24.8), Sweden (€21.9), and Denmark (€16.6).
The EU average was €11.9. Gas prices were higher in eight EU member states than the EU average, suggesting households in these countries paid substantially more.
Gas prices were lowest in Turkey (€2.5) when EU candidate countries are included. Contrary to electricity prices, the candidates didn't have the cheapest gas prices, as shown by the likes of North Macedonia (€10.4) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (€5.9).
In the first half of 2023, the Netherlands had the most expensive electricity and gas prices in the EU.
Electricity and gas prices rose in almost all EU countries
Household electricity prices increased in 22 EU countries in the first half of 2023 compared with the first half of 2022, according to the Eurostat data, and gas prices climbed in 20 out of the 24 EU members.
Why did Dutch electricity prices skyrocket by almost 1000%?
The Netherlands recorded the largest increase year-over-year in electricity prices by a country mile, at 953%. According to Eurostat, this extraordinary rise is related to several factors: not only were tax relief measures from 2022 discontinued in 2023, but at the same time, household electricity taxes doubled.
However, the government is due to incorporate a price cap which will lower prices at all levels quite significantly in 2023.
The Netherlands was followed by Lithuania (88%), Romania (77%) and Latvia (74%).
On the flipside, electricity prices fell in five EU member states, with Spain recording a significant decrease of 41%, followed by Denmark at 16%.
Gas prices climbed more than 100% in some countries
Natural gas prices rose substantially in several countries across Europe, climbing more than 100% per cent in Latvia, Romania and Austria. They were followed by the Netherlands (100%), Turkey (92%) and Ireland (73%).
EU countries Italy, Estonia and Croatia saw decreases less than 1%. North Macedonia, an EU candidate, showed the largest fall overall by 14%. All these changes are based on national currencies.
EU energy imports from Russia dramatically fell
Eurostat has recorded a dramatic shift in the amount of energy the EU has imported from Russia since it launched its war against Ukraine. A huge growth in renewables, as well as gas from Norway and the US, has helped to make up for the dramatic drop in Russian energy.
The most striking change can be seen in natural gas.
EU natural gas imports from Russia made up almost 50% of the total before the war. This decreased significantly in 2022, down to 12% in October.
It remains to be seen whether the recent outbreak of the Israel Hamas war will have a similar, lasting effect on European energy supplies and prices.