EUROPE: In the midst of soaring temperatures in record-breaking numbers across Western nations, especially throughout the EU and parts of Britain, distraught households have been forced to cut down on energy bills due to rising fuel prices.
Reduced shower times, no more ironing or extended oven use- Europeans are struggling to keep energy use down, but the bills keep piling up.
New data has revealed that millions of Europeans are now spending a significant amount of their income on just energy as wholesale gas and electricity prices surge across the globe.
In the east England town of Grimsby, the situation is dire. Local resident, Philip Keetley, refused to turn on his cooling fan at home as Britain sweltered under a record heat wave this summer.
His despairing bank account revealed he had no means to splurge on the luxury.
“The cost of living has increased, and yet you’re still expected to live on the money provided for when there wasn’t a crisis … I either can have my heating on or eat,” Keetley said.
In other European countries, citizens have been encouraged or rather sanctioned by the government to cut consumption as gas, electricity and fuel prices skyrocket. The factors that have led to this appalling crisis have resulted due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, fuel sanctions on Russia and the rocky aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
The European gas price threshold has soared 550% in the past 12 months. Additionally, the British government’s energy regulator, Ofgem, announced on Friday that energy prices will increase by 80% starting in October, bringing average annual household bills to 3,549 pounds ($4,188).
Although European governments have made efforts to offer relief, data shows nothing much has changed in these struggling households.
Carbon Brief’s calculations of official data indicate that this winter will be harsh on Britons, who will likely spend a tenth of their household income on gas, electricity and other heating fuels as well as other domestic vehicle fuels like petrol or diesel. It was nearly twice the spending in 2021. This makes the energy crisis more severe than those of the 70s and 80s.
After October when Britain’s cap is raised, 8.5 million UK households, up from 4.5 million in October of last year, could live in fuel poverty, according to UK charity National Energy Action (NEA).
Peter Smith, director of policy and advocacy at NEA, said that this energy crisis is “completely unprecedented”.
“We think those historical trends of low-income households disproportionately spending more of their energy on energy is still very evident.”
Keetley lost his position as a council adviser in April and now ekes out a living off of social security benefits of just 600 pounds ($706.44) per month. The remaining amount bare minimum meets his needs while half of it is used to pay the rent.
He has resorted to a single meal a day, reducing fuel and energy consumption, but still pays more than 15% of his meagre income on energy bills.
Other British families suffer a similar trajectory, as a third of households have reduced the number of showers they take, and half have reduced temperatures at home.
Other European nations have not fared so well either.
In Turkey, gas prices more than doubled in July from a year earlier, while electricity prices surged 67% year-on-year, according to Turkish Statistical Institute data.
Meanwhile, in an Italian household, energy bills for gas and electricity spiked to 5% of total household expenses in 2022, from 3.5% in 2019.
One of the wealthiest EU nations, Germany, also seemed strapped for cash as gas prices more than doubled in July 2021, data from prices portal Check24 showed, while heating oil prices for families with a mid-terrace house were up 78% year-on-year in May.