Gas and electricity bills 'nearly double in all EU capitals', new data reveals

Access to the comments Comments
By Joshua Askew
A utility bill burns during a protest by shopkeepers against the costs of living, in Turin, Italy, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
A utility bill burns during a protest by shopkeepers against the costs of living, in Turin, Italy, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.   -   Copyright  Matteo Secci/LaPresse   -  

Energy costs for households across Europe nearly doubled compared to a year ago, new data has revealed.

Gas bills have soared 111% and electricity ones 69%, according to the latest figures from the Household Energy Price Index. 

Averaged, these two figures mean an energy bill increase of 90% -- or nearly double -- compared to October 2021.  

The research, published on Monday by Energie-Control Austria, the Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (MEKH) and VaasaETT, highlights the bruising impact of the Ukraine war on Europe, which has triggered a cost of living crisis and plunged many economies into recession.

Pinpointing how the Russian invasion impacted energy prices, the authors said it had caused "uncertainty over energy security" and "reduced deliveries of Russian gas or [the] complete termination of supply". 

Russia reduced and eventually halted Nord Stream gas supplies to Europe in September, after western countries sanctioned Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, with the US accusing Russia of "weaponising energy". 

The Household Energy Price Index report looked at gas and electricity prices from 2009 to October 2022 in 33 European countries -- including EU member states as well as Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK and Switzerland.

It found that recent energy price spikes followed record-breaking increases in 2021 caused by higher demand as people and businesses recovered from the COVID pandemic. 

"Significantly higher [energy prices] compared to one year ago ... can be attributed to a combination of factors, such as increased demand connected to post-pandemic economic recovery and extraordinary weather conditions, the record-high prices for natural gas, and high CO2 emissions allowances," wrote the authors. 

Gas

Residents of Amsterdam paid the most in Europe for natural gas at twice the European average, followed by Copenhagen, Denmark, according to the report.

The amount forked out by those living in the Dutch capital is almost 17 times higher than in Hungary's Budapest, the cheapest capital city for gas in the European Union (EU). 

Hungarians have traditionally enjoyed cheaper energy due to generous government price controls put in place in 2014, though the country recently tightened rules to restrict eligibility. 

Outside of the EU, the report found that people in Kyiv pay the least for their gas, 19 times less than those in Amsterdam. 

Power supply in the Ukrainian capital became a major issue in October, with Russian forces bombing the country's energy infrastructure, causing frequent blackouts. 

Andrew Kravchenko/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
A view of Podil district during a blackout in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Nov. 4, 2022.Andrew Kravchenko/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

The report also looked at "significant" price changes in individual European capitals during October. 

In Rome, it revealed that gas costs increased by 97% last month and more than 170% compared to one year ago. 

This was due to "increases in energy and distribution components" in Italy, while price hikes of 64% and 58% were recorded in Luxembourg City and Lisbon respectively. 

Gas prices in Rome, Luxembourg, Lisbon, Dublin, Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Bern, Copenhagen, and Stockholm reached new, record highs. 

But it wasn't all doom and gloom. Gas bills fell in many parts of Europe, mostly due to government intervention, though the report added "current prices remain incredibly high compared to a year ago". 

A 55% reduction in prices was reported in Athens. This, according to the report, was due to decreases in "energy taxes" and "the government's price compensation scheme". 

Greek authorities have rewarded consumers who cut down on their electricity consumption with cheaper bills, alongside imposing a cap on payments to power producers. It is partially funding these measures through a windfall tax on energy companies.

Sofia, Tallinn, Madrid, Berlin and Riga all saw gas price decreases of 29%, 25%, 12%, 11% and 5% respectively. 

These prices do not relate to the amount paid by customers on fixed-price contracts. 

Electricity

End users electricity prices also varied hugely across Europe. 

Copenhagen and Rome are the most expensive cities for European households, followed by Amsterdam and Berlin, according to the report. 

Feeling the crunch, the German capital has switched off the lights on many of its most famous landmarks, such as the Humboldt University, the German Historical Museum and Brandenburg Gate. 

People in other parts of the country have been urged by local authorities to shower with cold water

Paul Zinken/(c) Copyright 2022, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten
The Berlin Cathedral is no longer fully illuminated in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, July 27, 2022.Paul Zinken/(c) Copyright 2022, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten

Those in eastern and central Europe enjoyed the cheapest electricity, with Kyivans paying the least, followed by locals in Belgrade, Budapest and Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. 

In Prague and Tallinn prices are above average for the region. 

Again the report looked at individual countries, highlighting the most significant changes during the last month. 

The top three capitals with the largest price increases were Dublin (44%), Rome (30%) and Vienna (24%). 

In the Irish capital, the report noted "a remarkable price increase", caused by "unprecedented continuous rising wholesale prices, particularly for gas". 

Natural gas provides around a third of Ireland's energy, meaning the country is vulnerable to price shocks. 

Prices paid by locals in these cities reached record highs, along with Berlin, Copenhagen, Brussels, Athens and Prague. 

However, the report noted that while household electricity prices continued their "upward trend in October", this was on a "much smaller scale" compared to previous months.

Electricity prices decreased in Riga (29%), Tallinn (22%), Oslo (10%), Madrid (9%), Helsinki (6%), Zagreb (3%) and Paris (2%).