Reuters: Expensive energy, shock for Europeans. More showers

Reading time: 3 minutes

Energy costs have reached record levels in Europe, and bills are forcing many to cut back on consumption by all means. No irons, rarely used microwaves and showers at work – this is largely the strategy many Europeans are using to cope with high energy bills.

Amid rising electricity and natural gas tariffs, millions of Europeans are now spending a substantial portion of their income on energy and people are starting to voluntarily cut gas, electricity and fuel consumption after prices exploded due to the Ukraine war, sanctions imposed on Russia and the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Reuters analysis, cited by SpotMedia.

The benchmark European gas price has risen by 550% in the last 12 months. From October, the cost of energy for British consumers will rise by 80%, regulator Ofgem announced on Friday, taking the average annual household bill to €4,172.

European governments have provided aid, but the data shows that the support has not had a significant impact on people.

In winter, Britons will spend an average of 10% of their income on gas, electricity and other heating, as well as car fuel, twice as much as in 2021, according to official data.

The current crisis is tougher than those of the 70s and 80s. An embargo on Iranian oil and the revolution in that country caused fuel shortages and huge queues at Western gas stations in 1979. In 1982, when the crisis reached its peak, the British were spending 9.3% of their income on energy.

National Energy Action (NEA) estimates that 8.5 million UK households will be in energy poverty from October, almost double the 4.5 million in October 2021.

According to the NEA, a household is considered in energy poverty if it has a low level of income and has to pay 10% or more on energy. The definition is also used unofficially in other European countries.

Food or heat

In the eastern English town of Grimsby, Philip Keetley hasn’t turned on the air conditioner this summer, even though heatwaves have brought record temperatures to Britain. With the money he has in his account, he couldn’t afford it.

“The cost of living has increased and you have to make do with the money you received when there was no crisis… I can either turn on the heating or eat,” he anticipated the “survival strategy” for the coming winter.

Keetley lost her job as a councilor in April and lives on welfare benefits of £600 (€709) a month. Half of the money goes on rent and what’s left barely affords everyday expenses. He only eats once a day and although he has minimized his energy consumption, he still pays over 15% of his income on bills.

A third of British households have reduced the use of ovens and microwaves, a third have reduced the number of showers and half have reduced the temperature in the colder months, according to a study by the Financial Fairness Trust.

Gas prices for households in most European countries in the first part of this year surpassed peaks recorded during previous crises in the 1970s, 1980s and 2000s, according to inflation-adjusted data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The situation in Europe is worse than in other developed economies. IEA data from 1978 to the present shows that although US household consumers have paid more for natural gas on average over the past four decades, the price of natural gas for European homes will surpass US levels in 2022.

In Turkey, natural gas rates doubled in July compared to last year, while electricity prices rose by 67%, according to data from the country’s Statistics Institute.

Şeyda Bal, 27, from Istanbul, says she only uses the oven three times a month to save energy. Her husband takes the bus to work to save fuel, even though the journey takes three times as long.

Italy and Germany are, however, the most affected countries in the European Union by the increase in the price of natural gas.

Gas and electricity bills for an average Italian family rose to 5 percent of total household spending in July, up from 3.5 percent in 2019, according to data from economic research firm Prometeia. July’s level was the highest since 1995.

In the continent’s strongest economy, Germany, gas bills doubled in July compared to 2021, data published by the Check24 portal shows, while heating fuels for terraced houses rose in price by 78% in in May, compared to last year.

Ercan Erden (58) lives in Nidda, a town northwest of Frankfurt, and works at a mineral water bottling plant. “Now I shower and shave at work after finishing the program,” he revealed how he saves energy.