Northern Germany: Thousands of electricity customers are slipping into basic supply

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Thousands of electricity customers in Berlin and Hamburg are slipping into the basic supply because their previous provider no longer supplies them. At Vattenfall, the basic supplier of the two largest German cities, there has been talk of a mid five-digit number in the past few weeks. “In fact, due to the wave of cancellations in electricity contracts from other providers, we are currently seeing an increase in customers in our basic service,” the company said.

The background to this is the tense situation on the electricity markets. At least 38 providers have notified the Federal Network Agency by the end of 2021 that they no longer want to supply their customers with electricity. The companies justify this with the sharp rise in prices on the electricity exchanges. Hundreds of thousands of customers are likely to be affected. The best-known case is Stromio.

If a provider no longer delivers, customers automatically switch to the tariff of the local basic supplier. Then electricity continues to come from the socket, but usually has to be paid much more expensively than before. The federal government sees breaches of contract by providers in the current wave of dismissals.

In 2021, prices on the electricity exchanges were higher than they had been for at least 20 years, as the Energy Industry Institute (EWI) of the University of Cologne determined in a brief analysis. This is due to the fact that after the Corona slump the global economy recovered in 2021 and the demand for energy skyrocketed. In addition, there were higher prices for the emission of climate-damaging carbon dioxide.

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It was only on Wednesday that the Brandenburg consumer center announced its lawsuit against the Berlin provider Voxenergie. Customers had complained that the company had increased prices without announcing this beforehand or referring to the special right of termination. The company did not respond to a request on the allegation.

Vattenfall announced that it was well prepared for the influx of customers. The company regularly secures the required amounts of electricity over a long period of time. “We are therefore well armed against price fluctuations.” According to a spokesman, the number of electricity contracts with the German branch of the Swedish state company has been growing for some time. According to its own information, the company has 4.2 million electricity customers nationwide, 1.6 million of them in Berlin and around 650,000 in Hamburg.


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