A megawatt hour in Germany now costs almost 400 euros. That is more than three times as much as a year ago. EU-wide we are in the more expensive half, but other countries suffer far more from sometimes lower prices.

You have to be Swede. Yesterday, electricity suppliers paid just 65 euros for one megawatt hour on the electricity exchange. Compared to Germany, that’s silly. Here the price was around six times as high at 392 euros. The incomes in Sweden are also comparable to those in Germany, which is why it can be shown very vividly how advantageous the low electricity price is: while a German full-time employee with an average income has to work around 22 hours to be able to afford one megawatt hour it’s just 3 hours and 39 minutes in Sweden – that’s just until the lunch break.

In order to make the importance of electricity prices for the burden on citizens clearer, we have put the costs in 25 of the 27 EU countries plus Switzerland, Norway and Serbia in relation to the respective income of a low-wage, middle-wage and high-wage worker. Unfortunately, there is no current data for Malta, Cyprus and Great Britain, which has left the EU.

Finding: The quickest way to earn a megawatt hour after Sweden is in Finland, where it takes between 3.3 and 6.7 hours of work, in Estonia (6.1 to 16 hours of work) and Norway (7.5 to 14.5 hours of work). This is no coincidence. The first three countries also have the lowest electricity prices in comparison. After all, Norway has the seventh lowest prices. In Norway, however, the income is in the top 3, which easily compensates for the higher prices.

No matter which metric you use, Germany is in the middle. Our electricity price of 392 euros per MWh is enormous compared to Sweden, but is even higher in 17 countries, including Austria and France. Our incomes are above average, but not top-notch either. A high earner in Germany is in 8th place with a household income of 38,056 euros per year. Up to the low earner, who comes to 16,328 euros disposable income per year, Germany even falls back to 11th place.

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That also puts it in the middle when it comes to how many man-hours it takes to produce a megawatt hour. A low-income household in this country needs 38.5 hours for a full-time employee, i.e. a full week. The average household needs 22 hours of work, a high-income household gets by with 16.5 hours. With all these values, Germany is between 12th and 14th place out of 28 countries.

At the lower end of the scale are the low-income countries of Eastern Europe, where electricity is even more expensive than in Germany. Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic pay between 428 and 467 euros per megawatt hour. Since the salaries in none of these countries come close to the German level, the workload is enormous. A low-income household in Serbia has to work 332 hours for a single megawatt hour. Even a high-income household needs 126 hours. Slovenia is eleven places ahead with 34 to 66 working hours.

Greece (54 to 138 working hours) and Italy (27 to 70 working hours) are placed between the block from Eastern Europe. Our neighbors France and Poland (22 to 47 hours each) also have to work even longer for their electricity than we do. In France, this is because the megawatt hour is significantly more expensive at 444 euros. In Poland, the lower price of 160 euros is offset by even lower wages.

It is not possible to break down exactly how much electricity an average household consumes per year in each of the countries listed. Even in Germany, this varies greatly, as it mainly depends on the number of people living in the household. The average single German consumes around 2.3 megawatt hours per year, and a family of four consumes an average of 4 megawatt hours. The numbers increase even more if a household uses electricity for hot water, for example.

The table is based on the day-ahead prices on the European electricity exchanges on September 13, 2022. The income statistics come from the European statistical office Eurostat. We have defined “low income” as a household whose disposable income is in the first quintile, i.e. one of the 20 percent with the lowest income. Disposable income in the third quintile is defined as “middle income” and one in the fourth quintile as “high income”, which means that one belongs to the 40 percent of the highest income earners. The income figures are from 2021, for a few countries from 2020. For the conversion into working hours, we assumed a German full-time job that required an average of 1602.5 working hours last year.

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