A quarter less natural gas was used throughout the Netherlands last year than the year before. A total of 31.2 billion cubic meters of gas was burned, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). That is the lowest amount in fifty years.
Large industrial companies (over a quarter) and households (a quarter) in particular consumed less gas. In the case of companies, the decline is strongest in the petroleum and chemical industries. Power stations also burned 12 percent less natural gas, and it was noticeable that companies in the greenhouse horticulture sector switched to gas engines with lower consumption.
Furthermore, according to ONL entrepreneurs’ association, at least dozens of smaller entrepreneurs such as bakers, greengrocers and laundromats had to stop because they could no longer pay their higher energy bills. Or because the bottom line was simply not enough profit to continue doing business.
As far as households are concerned, the decrease in consumption is twofold. Statistics Netherlands attributes a large part of the decline to the warmer weather, about 10 percent. On top of that comes a further 15 percent less gas consumption, which is directly linked to the sharply higher gas prices in 2022. In short: because people have saved energy by lowering the heating, taking shorter showers or better insulating their homes.
A tour of RTL News shows that Vattenfall customers have turned off the gas tap the most. They saved more than 20 percent on their consumption. The customers of Essent, Budget Energie and Greenchoice have also made clear savings on their energy consumption, although these energy suppliers do not wish to state exact percentages.
Saving energy is positive, but often born out of necessity. For example, there are people with lower incomes or poorly insulated (rental) houses. “Their saving is not voluntary in all cases, because people have to cut back purely because otherwise they would not be able to pay their energy bills,” says Eneco spokesperson Edwin van de Haar.
The government has made several subsidy schemes for families living in so-called energy poverty. Last week, the Temporary Energy Emergency Fund opened for people with a low income and a high energy bill.
Nevertheless, the major energy suppliers see that in 2022 more customers will ask for a payment arrangement. At the end of last year, Vattenfall had to deal with 20 to 30 percent more payment arrears than at the end of 2021. Eneco also saw a 10 percent increase in customers in payment arrears in 2022.
“This includes customers who pay immediately after a reminder,” says Van de Haar. “All in all, a few percent of our customers have a payment problem.” Budget Energie and Greenchoice saw no clear increase in the number of payment arrangements made.
Below the price ceiling
In 2023 there will be a price ceiling on energy for households and other small consumers (maximum 1200 cubic meters of gas and 2900 kilowatt hours of electricity). At Vattenfall, they expect that if the energy savings of 2022 continue, a large proportion of their customers will manage to stay below the set price ceiling.
“With regard to electricity, in that case, more than 85 percent of households remain below or very close to the volume limit of the price ceiling. And for gas, that is more than 75 percent,” says Vattenfall spokesperson Hidde Kuik. “By using less energy, we ensure that the price is kept down together.”
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