Energy bills: Who pays the most in Europe?

Energy bills with some euros Electricity and gas prices vary wildly depending on where you live in Europe

High energy bills may top the political agenda in the UK, but households all over Europe are feeling the squeeze.

Since 2010, both gas and electricity prices have risen markedly, largely due to rises in wholesale prices on the back of the tentative global economic recovery and expectations of higher demand.

Electricity prices fell in the first half of the year, but this was simply a case of energy suppliers cutting prices after large increases in January.

The dip in gas prices has lasted longer, but even they are on the up again.

European household electricity and gas prices

But as the chart below shows, Europe cannot be treated as a single entity, for there are massive differences between individual countries in what households pay for their power.

Energy think tank Vaasaett says that although its prices are specific to capital cities, the rankings shown below would not change if the country as a whole was substituted for the city.

Taking exchange rates out of the equation, Helsinki is the cheapest of the 23 European cities surveyed for electricity prices. Households in Berlin - the most expensive - pay two-and-a-half times as much, largely due to taxes and subsidies designed to boost renewable energy production.

In fact, almost a third of a Berliner's electricity bill comprises energy taxes. The equivalent figure for the UK is currently 9%, but this will fall - possibly by three or four percentage points - once energy suppliers pass on recently announced changes in green levies.

In the past month, prices have risen in seven cities, and nowhere more so than in London. This has sparked dismay among consumers and sparked heated political debate about how best to reduce bills - hence the reduction in green levies. And yet UK consumers are less active in changing energy companies than at any time since 1999 - when they were first free to pick and choose supplier - with just 10% of customers switching during the past year.

Even after the recent price rises, however, London remains one of the cheaper places to buy electricity, and below the European average.

But prices haven't been going up everywhere - electricity bills have fallen in nine cities in the past month, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, with the Hungarian government reducing prices by 11% and its Croatian counterpart cutting them by 6%.

On average across Europe, the actual energy price component, including supplier profit margins, represents about 41% of a household's electricity bill, while distribution represents 33%, energy taxes 11% and sales tax 16%, according to Vaasaett.

In the UK, the price of energy including margins is 58%, distribution is 26%, energy taxes 11% and VAT 5%. Compare this with Copenhagen, where the cost of energy comprises less than a fifth of bills while taxes make up more than half.

Residential electricity prices in European cities

Gas prices also vary a great deal, with households in Stockholm - the most expensive city - paying three times more than those in the cheapest, Luxembourg City.

Stockholm is much more expensive than everywhere else simply because the gas market is so small - there are only 33,000 households buying gas in the whole of Sweden.

London is the second cheapest city, where households pay well below the European average, despite recent price rises. In the past month, seven countries have seen gas price rises, while eight have seen prices fall.

Across Europe, the actual wholesale gas price, together with suppliers' profit margins, represents 54% of an average gas bill, while distribution represents 23%, energy taxes 7% and sales tax 16%.

In the UK, the price of energy including margins makes up 67% of a gas bill, while distribution represents 23%, energy taxes 6% and VAT 5%.

Gas prices in European cities

Of course prices must be seen in the context of people's ability to pay them, and fuel poverty is seen as a major concern within the UK, where 6.5% of the population say they cannot afford to keep their homes adequately warm, according to European Union figures.

But spare a thought for those living in Bulgaria, where almost half the population (47%) say they cannot afford to heat their homes properly. Many Lithuanians (34%), Cypriots (31%), Portuguese (27%) and Greeks (26%) in particular also struggle to keep their homes warm.

At the other end of the scale, less than 2% of Scandinavians cannot afford to keep warm at home. The average across the EU is about 11%.

Percentage of population in European countries unable to heat home adequately

The figures for the proportion of people who are struggling to keep up with the energy bill payments are almost as startling.

Almost a third of Greeks (32%) are in arrears on their utility bills, while many Bulgarians, Croatians (both 28%), Romanians (27%) and Latvians (23%) also struggle to keep up with their payments.

In the UK, about 9% of the population are behind in their bill payments, compared with an average across the EU of about 10%.

Further energy price rises will simply ensure that even more households across Europe will struggle to keep up with their bill payments, and increase further the number that cannot afford to heat their homes properly this winter.

Percentage of population in European countries in arrears on utility bills

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    08:22: Markets update

    Here's how the main European markets are looking in early trading:

    • In London, the FTSE 100 is down 0.1% at 6,721
    • In Frankfurt, the Dax is up 0.25% at 9,940
    • In Paris, the Cac is down 0.2% at 4,373
     
  2.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Poundland shares up 3%. Company now valued at £800m."

     
  3.  
    08:12: East Coast sale BBC Radio 4

    "This was the best of the three bids," Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin tells the Today programme. He adds the Stagecoach/Virgin consortium known as ICR, is offering an increase in the premium that will be paid to the government. Asked if the consortium will paying more than the other bidders he replies "Oh yes". But he says services will also be improved - 23 more rail services will operate from Kings Cross. "We have seen a magnificent transformation on the railways in this country since privatisation."

     
  4.  
    08:05: Stagecoach shares

    Shares in Stagecoach are up more than 8% following the announcement that it won the East Coast rail franchise. Meanwhile, rivals FirstGroup are down 5.6%.

     
  5.  
    07:50: Poundland profits

    Discount retailer Poundland has reported a near 12% rise in pre-tax profits for the six months to the end of September - to £9.3m. The retail chain, which debuted on the London Stock Exchange in March, said its target was to open 60 new stores in the UK and Ireland next year. It added it was on track to open 10 stores in Spain by the end of 2016, with three already open.

     
  6.  
    07:46: East Coast sale
    Mick Cash

    The RMT trade union has come out all guns blazing. "It is a national disgrace and an act of utter betrayal that the government has confirmed that it is bulldozing ahead with the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line despite all the figures showing that the current public sector operator is handing over a billion pounds back to the British people while delivering huge improvements in service and customer satisfaction," says general secretary Mick Cash.

     
  7.  
    07:28: Mulberry finally bags new creative director
    A woman walks past a video display in the shop window of a Mulberry store in central London

    Luxury handbag maker Mulberry has finally completed its search for a new creative director. It comes 18 months after Emma Hill, the woman who helped make Mulberry a household name, departed following a row with the firm's then chief executive Bruno Guillon over "creative differences". Mr Guillon left in March after Mulberry issued three profit warnings. The new creative director is Johnny Coca, currently head of design direction at Céline. He joins Mulberry in July 2015.

     
  8.  
    07:24: East Coast sale

    ICR, as the consortium is being dubbed, is not an even partnership between Stagecoach and Virgin. The former holds 90% of the capital.

     
  9.  
    07:16: East Coast sale

    Inter City Railways says: "The company will shortly begin talks with Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation to agree its plans to run new direct services from London to Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Huddersfield".

     
  10.  
    07:12: East Coast sale

    "Over the next eight years Inter City Railways will pay the government around £3.3bn to operate the franchise."

     
  11.  
    07:10: East Coast sale

    Inter City Railways, as the Stagecoach/Virgin consortium is named, says the deal will bring 23 new services from London to key destinations, and 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak times by 2020.

     
  12.  
    07:00: East Coast sale

    A consortium made up of Stagecoach and Virgin has won the franchise to run the East Coast main line.

    East Coast
     
  13.  
    06:54: Rémy Cointreau
    Rémy Cointreau

    Cognac maker Rémy Cointreau reports a 15% drop in operating half-year profit, to €102m. The French group says it "remained adversely affected by evolving consumption patterns in China," by which it means that officials are having fewer Cognac-fuelled soirées.

     
  14.  
    06:50: Falling oil prices BBC Radio 4

    Speaking of balancing budgets, a number of analysts think Opec won't be able to reach an agreement on cutting oil production (which is needed to stop the supply surplus that is driving the oil price down) precisely because of a number of members have already done so - Iran has cut production by 1 million barrels a day as a result of international sanctions. Moreover, some members, such as Venezuela and Nigeria, simply can't afford to do so.

     
  15.  
    06:40: Tibetan tapestry
    Silk

    The latest entry in our Live Page series of artwork sold for exorbitant amounts is this 600-year-old Tibetan silk tapestry. It fetched $45m at an auction in Hong Kong - a record for art from the region. The good news is that the buyer will put the colourful thangka - which depicts the meditational deity Raktayamari, and was created during the Ming dynasty between 1402 and 1424 - on public display at a museum in Shanghai.

     
  16.  
    06:24: Falling oil prices
    Opec

    Here's an image that the delegates at Opec will be familiar with. It outlines the price per barrel of Brent crude oil that some states need to see in order to balance their budgets.

     
  17.  
    06:24: Falling oil price BBC Radio 4

    The main item on the agenda at the Opec meeting is the falling oil price, and what to do about it. BBC economics correspondent Andrew Walker says lower demand has pushed the price down, caused by a slowdown in industrial production in the eurozone and China. But US oil production - thanks to fracking - is also at its highest since 1986 and that is putting pressure on the price of Brent crude as well.

     
  18.  
    06:20: What is Opec?
    Opec

    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) is holding talks in Vienna later today, on how to address the 30% fall in crude oil prices since June. Our colleagues have put together a 60-second explainer that will tell you what the meeting is all about.

     
  19.  
    06:10: Thomas Cook Radio 5 live

    Anne Richards, chief investment officer at Aberdeen Asset Management, tells Wake Up to Money that Harriet Green's shock departure from Thomas Cook yesterday doesn't feel "pre-ordained", and as a large shareholder, her company will be asking for an explanation. Thomas Cook's share price slumped 17% following the news.

     
  20.  
    06:02: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning. We should also be getting details of who the East Coast Mainline is being sold to this morning too. According to the Mirror newspaper, the government has decided upon a French consortium which includes Kelios - ultimately owned by French state rail operator SNCF. Will bring you that announcement when it happens. As always get in touch via email at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on Twitter @bbcbusiness.

     
  21.  
    06:00: Joe Miller Business Reporter

    Good morning. A cross-party report is understood to have recommended giving the Scottish Parliament new powers to set income tax and control some welfare payments. The report was commissioned after David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg promised shortly before the independence referendum that Holyrood would be given new powers, if people voted to stay in the UK. Stay tuned for more details.

     

Features

  • Afghan interpetersBlacklisted

    The Afghan interpreters left by the US to the mercy of the Taliban


  • Prosperi in the 1994 MdSLost in the desert

    How I drank urine and bat blood to survive in the Sahara


  • photo of patient zero, two year-old Emile OuamounoPatient zero

    Tracking first Ebola victim and and how virus spread


  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif (left) and chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi wave to journalists from the Palais Coburg in Vienna (22 November 2014)Waiting game

    Journalists watch as nuclear talks go to the wire


From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • The challenge is to drop a bottle of water within 100 metres of this dummyClick Watch

    The race to get water – transported by drone – to a man stuck in remote Australia

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.