Many consumers are looking forward to the winter with concern. Gas prices are exploding, advance payments have increased eightfold in some cases. We wanted to know from our users how they deal with the situation – and what they want from politics.
As temperatures drop, fears of a harsh winter, cold apartments and ever-rising prices are growing in Germany. The supply situation is tense because of the Ukraine war.
We asked our users to report on their very personal situation. How much do they have to pay for gas now? Do you think what the traffic light government is doing is right, or do you feel that politics has let you down?
The numerous letters show one thing above all: many Germans cannot believe how much their energy costs have risen. Even readers who have never had to pay close attention to their expenses in the past are afraid that they will no longer be able to afford a warm apartment.
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For example, there is Guido Kuschenek from Helmstedt in Lower Saxony. The 55-year-old lives with his wife in a single-family home that was built in 1995. “Our gas boiler is 19 years old, it should actually hold out until it falls apart,” he says on the phone.
Kuschenek works as a department head for the city of Helmstedt and is stunned at how much gas prices have increased. “Our previous discount was 86 euros per month. From October 14, we should pay around 666 euros,” he says. Kuschenek now has to pay almost eight times as much for gas as a few months ago.
Nevertheless, he says: “Financially we can manage it somehow, even if it’s getting tight”. The man from Helmstedt actually wanted to invest in a new bathroom and do renovation work on the house. This is no longer possible due to the high energy prices.
Like many other Germans, Kuschenek and his wife are concerned about the winter. The head of department not only wants to heat later and shorter. He is also considering lowering the room temperature. However, he already doubts whether it will work.
“It will probably get too clammy for us and there is also a risk of mold if it’s too cold,” says Kuschenek. Despite all the concerns, he does not blame the federal government for the energy chaos.
“I think they’re doing a lot of things right. The previous CDU-led government made us dependent on Russia,” says Kuschenek. He also emphasizes that he thinks the sanctions against Russia are right and important. Even if the current situation hurts the 55-year-old and his wife financially. “I’d rather pay more than use Russian gas again.”
Benjamin Tolls from Mönchengladbach sees things differently. The 37-year-old lives with his wife and children in a bungalow that the couple bought seven years ago. The house hasn’t been paid for yet.
Tolls hopes that the situation will soon improve and that electricity and gas prices will stabilize again. And expects the federal government to take appropriate action.
“I would like to see more commitment from politicians, for example when it comes to removing obstacles to the construction of wind power and solar systems,” he says. In the eyes of the trained electronics engineer, the network expansion must also progress better.
“The sanctions are not only extremely damaging to Russia, but also to us. I’m not surprised that the mood is getting more and more tense,” says Tolls. He believes that support for Ukraine – especially among the middle class – will dwindle if consumers don’t get more relief soon.
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When he talks about his own personal situation, it becomes clear why Tolls is so frustrated. “It all started with an additional payment in July, it was 1,000 euros,” he says. The total deduction for electricity, gas and water initially increased to around 420 euros a month, in August it was almost 1200 euros.
This corresponds to an increase of 186 percent. “Gas alone accounts for 880 euros,” says the family man on the phone. He looked around for other gas suppliers, but the savings were never large enough to make the switch worthwhile.
Tolls and his family have turned off the heating and hot water because they are worried about the horrendous energy costs. “We want to keep consumption low for as long as possible,” says the 37-year-old SAP consultant. His wife is a part-time clerk, so both spouses work. So far they have been getting along well with their income.
Those times seem over. “The current situation scares us a lot,” says Tolls. “In the worst case, we lose our house.” After all, it could be that the family can no longer pay the installments for the bungalow if electricity and gas prices continue to rise so sharply.
As the SAP consultant explains, the family’s savings are now “pulverized” just before the expensive winter. What is most important to him runs like a red thread through the entire conversation. “All that matters is that we can provide our children with a warm home and food,” Tolls says huskily.
He and his wife are not the only Germans who have little or no financial reserves. Marcel Fratzscher, President of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), spoke to the “Tagesschau” about the problem in August.
“One in three households in Germany has no significant savings that they can fall back on in these times of crisis to cover the higher costs for heating or groceries,” he said at the time.
Shocking new discount demands have finally been received by numerous FOCUS online readers. Some report gas costs of EUR 500 instead of EUR 100 per month, while others now pay EUR 627 instead of EUR 237. This corresponds to an increase of almost 165 percent.
A pensioner who lives with his wife in a 100 square meter home is in despair. “We can no longer bear these costs,” he writes.
“My wife works in the social sector and I am a pensioner. Aids and medicines have to be advanced from my pension and private health insurance has to be paid for. It’s just not possible anymore.” And the overall mood is gloomy.
According to the ZDF political barometer, only one in ten Germans assumes that their own economic situation will be better next year than it is today. 40 percent of those surveyed even fear a deterioration. There have never been so many in the survey.