The Rhineland-Palatinate consumer advice center said that since the beginning of the energy price crisis, the number of requests for advice in many advice centers in the state had doubled. "Many of our advice-seekers are already longingly waiting for the relief" from the energy price brakes, said Antje Kahlheber, project manager for energy cost consulting.
The energy price brakes apply from March, but the relief should already be available for January and February. The state pays households and small businesses the difference between the price cap and the market price for 80 percent of their previous year's consumption. The cap is twelve cents per cubic meter for gas and 40 cents for electricity.
The Federal Association of Energy and Water Management (BDEW) and the Association of Municipal Companies (VKU), which represents the public utility company, warned on Thursday that there could be delays in implementation. However, both associations also assured that all consumers would receive their relief.
The head of the consumer center in North Rhine-Westphalia, Wolfgang Schuldzinski, told the "Rheinische Post" that the delays were "annoying from the consumer's point of view", but not a surprise. The federal government had "let a lot of time go by" in the past year and set up the gas commission very late. The Commission had proposed the price brake.
He doesn't make any general accusations against the energy industry, said Schuldzinski. Kahlheber from the consumer advice center in Mainz also explained that "we understand the great administrative effort that the suppliers have to make". However, this should not lead to energy debts accumulating in low-income households, which then lead to warnings or, in the worst case, to the blocking of energy supplies.
The suppliers would have to do without this as part of a voluntary commitment until the price brakes take effect. Last week, the Federal Council also asked the federal government to avert energy cuts due to unpaid bills. The chamber of states suggested that the job centers could take over one-time high electricity bills. In addition, possibilities for interest-free installment payments should be expanded.
Schuldzinski also told the "Rheinische Post" that households had high expectations "that the price reductions on the wholesale markets would be quickly passed on to customers". On Friday, the wholesale price of gas in Europe fell to its lowest level since the end of August 2021: the reference futures contract TTF on the energy exchange in the Netherlands fell below 50 euros per megawatt hour.
However, energy suppliers always argue that they have concluded long-term supply contracts. These would have prevented even more violent price increases in the past year.