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Rising energy prices: How to save money on bills in Austria

In Austria, the winters are long and cold, which means most people are used to expensive energy bills. But this year prices are set to be higher than usual.

Rising energy prices: How to save money on bills in Austria
Photo: Michael Schwarzenberger / Pixabay

After 18 months of a pandemic and the many challenges that go along with it, the news that gas bills are set to soar in Austria this winter is not what most people want to hear.

The good news is that the rise in gas prices is not just happening in Austria – it’s a global issue as a result of the higher than usual demand during the pandemic that has cut into gas supplies.

The bad news is that prices are not expected to drop until spring 2022 and the burden is being placed on consumers, with countries like Germany and the UK already reporting an increase in gas prices for autumn and winter.

In Austria, the gas price index (ÖGPI), which is calculated by the Austrian Energy Agency, is currently five times as high as in September 2020.

Price increases in the standard tariffs have not yet been publicly announced but people are already taking to Twitter to ask questions about the rising costs.

Additionally, Karina Knaus, head of the Center for Economics, Consumers and Prices at the Austrian Energy Agency, told broadcaster ORF that it could be assumed prices will continue to rise in Austria as well.

Knaus said: “Since the price movements of the past few months have been very pronounced and unusual and there is currently no trend reversal in sight, it can be assumed that prices may rise here in the coming weeks and months as well.”

But Knaus added that sharp spikes should not be anticipated. 

She said: “In general, household gas prices in Austria are rather sluggish, so temporary and short-term movements on the wholesale market – neither upwards nor downwards – are usually not immediately passed on to the households, since procurement in this segment is also long-term.”

It’s still not good news though, which is leading many people to wonder how they can save money on energy bills in Austria.

Here’s what you need to know and what you can do. 

Energy consumption in Austria

According to the latest figures from Statistik Austria, the most commonly used energy source in Austria is electricity at 24.3 per cent, followed by fuel wood (19.3 percent), natural gas (18.6 percent) and district heating (13.5 percent). 

However, between July 2019 and June 2020, the average person used 25,140 gigajoules (gj) of natural gas compared to 7,841 gj of electricity.

Natural gas is also the second most popular energy source nationwide for space heating after fuel wood. 

This means a significant rise in gas prices will have an impact on household budgets this winter.

Modernise appliances with timers

Although energy prices are rising, this doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to save money – such as modernising appliances with timers.

By connecting a heating system to a timer you can avoid using heating when there is nobody at home, or you can set it to come on just before you arrive home. A timer can also set heating to a lower temperature overnight.

FOR MEMBERS: Cost of living: Seven tips to save money in Austria

Similarly, an energy efficient shower head can help to save money on energy bills.

Showers are known for using less energy than baths, but taking a warm shower for more than 10 minutes actually uses more energy than filling a bathtub.  

This is because a regular showerhead lets through 20 to 30 litres of water every minute. Whereas an energy efficient shower head typically uses less than 12 litres of water per minute.

Energy cost savings can also be made without an energy efficient shower head by simply taking shorter showers at a lower temperature.

Be mindful of energy usage

Most of us consume energy at home all the time without thinking – especially if people work from home.

Instead, try being more mindful about energy use by turning the lights off in a room or switching off appliances when they are no longer needed.

Other money saving tips include making sure windows are closed when the heating is on, insulating any doors or windows that let in a draught and closing doors to stop the heat from escaping.

Additionally, use energy saving light bulbs and unplug unused electrical appliances.

READ ALSO: Eight ways to save money living in Vienna

Finally, take a good look at your energy bills to find out just how much energy your household is consuming. This will help you to figure out where some savings could be made.

If your energy bills seem unreasonably high, then consider shopping around for a better rate and switching your provider if possible.

With predictions that energy prices won’t start to go down until spring next year, fixed-price deals could be more economical for the winter.

Taxes and government subsidies on energy in Austria

In July, the Austrian parliament voted in favour of the Renewable Expansion Law.

The new law sets the goal of switching to 100 percent renewable electricity production by 2030, but for this to happen Austria has to invest in capacity expansion to create an additional 27 TWh of electricity generation.

In August, the Austrian Federal Government then pledged to provide a further €20 million to the Climate and Energy Fund. This provides one-off subsidies of between €150 and €250 per kWp for the installation of solar Photovoltaics (PV) systems of up to 50 kW.

The investment aims to help more small and medium sized businesses, as well as individuals, switch to renewable energy.

When it comes to tax on energy in Austria, the amounts are levied within the framework of the 2003 European Union (EU) Energy Tax Directive.

The Directive sets the minimum rate for the taxation of energy products in EU member states.

Useful vocabulary

Steuer – tax

Rechnungen – bills

Erdgas/Naturgas – natural gas

Strom – electricity

READ MORE: Gas bills set to soar in Austria

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MONEY

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Austria’s climate bonus payment

Residents in Austria will receive up to €200 to compensate for the increase in energy and fuel prices created by the eco-social tax reform. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Austria's climate bonus payment

The climate bonus, or Klimabonus in German, is an essential part of Austria’s eco-tax reform, a larger project with several measures to incentivise environmental choices such as riding the public transport.

The bonus would offset some of the costs brought by a new CO2 tax in Austria.

READ ALSO: Austrian government unveils ‘eco’ tax reform

“With the Klimabonus, we ensure that climate-friendly behaviour is rewarded and the people in our country are relieved. If you take good care of the climate, you pay less CO2 tax and end up having more of this money left”, Climate Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) said on Twitter.

The Austrian government plans to set up a web site with more information on the bonus in June. Until then, here is what you need to know about the new compensation and how to get it.

Who is entitled to the payment?

Anyone who has had their primary residence in Austria for at least 183 days will be entitled to the bonus. Children are also entitled, but if they are younger than 18 years old, they will receive 50 per cent of the respective amount of the climate bonus.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get your €500 Kurzarbeit bonus in Austria

“This is the first time that all people, regardless of age, place of residence, regardless of employment or pension or training status, have received a federal payment,” said Gewessler on Friday in the Ö1 broadcast.

What is this ‘respective amount’?

Not everyone will receive the same amount of money. The value changes depending on where the recipient lives and what is the offer of public transport there. Viennese, then, will receive the lowest amount of money: a one-off € 100 payment.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to claim your €200 voucher for electronics repair in Austria

There are four levels of payment depending on the municipality: €100 for urban centres with the highest-ranking development (which is only Vienna), €233 for urban centres with good development of public transport, €167 in centres and surrounding areas with good basic development of the public system, and € 200 for rural municipalities.

If you live in Austria’s second-largest city, Graz, you fall into the second category and should expect a €133 bonus.

Some exceptions to the geographical rule apply, so people with disabilities who cannot use public transport will receive the total climate bonus (€200) regardless of where they live.

The Federal Government had already stated it estimated that a third of Austria’s population would receive the highest bonus.

How to get the bonus?

The payment is pretty straightforward; there is no need to apply for it, and it will be done directly into your bank account, just make sure that you have it up to date on the FinanzOnline website – the final date to do so is June 30th.

Those who receive a pension and other benefits will receive the bonus in that same bank account.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How freelancers in Austria can pay four times less in social insurance

It is worth mentioning that the bank account doesn’t necessarily need to be from an Austrian bank.

People who don’t have a registered bank account will receive a letter with a voucher that can be redeemed in shops or exchanged for cash at a bank, Gewessler said.

According to the Ministry, payments should start at the beginning of October, and those receiving a transfer will not have to wait for long to see the money in their bank accounts. However, people receiving letters with the vouchers could have to wait a few weeks.

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